Report: Ocean trash problem getting worse
United States and the international maritime community should adopt a goal of “zero discharge” of waste into the marine environment, said a new report from the National Research Council.
It warns current measures to prevent and reduce marine debris are inadequate, and the problem will likely worsen.
“The committee found that despite all the regulations and limitations over the last 20 years, there are still large quantities of waste and litter in the oceans,” said Keith Criddle, chair of the committee that wrote the report, and the Ted Stevens Distinguished Professor of Marine Policy at the Juneau Center for Fisheries and Ocean Science, University of Alaska, Fairbanks. “We concluded that the United States must take the lead and coordinate with other coastal countries, as well as with local and state governments, to better manage marine debris and try to achieve zero discharge.”
A National Research Council committee was convened at the request of Congress to assess the effectiveness of international and national measures to prevent and reduce marine debris and its impact.
Man-made materials that intentionally or accidentally enter and pollute the ocean, can cause significant harm. Animals can get tangled in or ingest debris leading to injury or death. It also poses a health and safety hazard to beachgoers and divers, and could impact coastal recreation and tourism revenue. While marine debris comes from sources both on land and at sea, the committee focused on debris discharged at sea for the purposes of the report.
Under the International Convention for the Prevention of Pollution from Ships (MARPOL) Annex V, which entered into force in 1988, many discharges from ships are permissible at sea. The committee said this approach does not encourage innovation or measures to minimize waste. It suggested that MARPOL Annex V be amended to include a prohibition on discharge of garbage at sea, allowing for limited exceptions based on specific vessel-operation scenarios.
Copies of Tackling Marine Debris in the 21st Century are available from the National Academies Press at (202) 334-3313, (800) 624-6242 or on the Web at www.nap.edu.