Understanding sources, sinks, and transport of marine debris

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Abstract

[1] Fifth International Marine Debris Conference: Hydrodynamics of Marine Debris; Honolulu, Hawaii, 20 March 2011; Ocean pollution in the form of marine debris, especially plastic debris, has received increasing public and media attention in recent years through striking but frequently inaccurate descriptions of “;garbage patches.” Marine debris is composed of all manufactured materials, including glass, metal, paper, fibers, and plastic, that have been deliberately dumped or that accidentally entered the marine environment. Marine debris is most visible on beaches, but it has been observed in all oceans and in such remote locations as on the deep seabed and floating in the middle of subtropical ocean gyres. While many initiatives have been developed to solve this pollution problem through prevention and cleanup efforts, there is relatively little scientific information available to assess the current status of the problem or to provide metrics to gauge the success of remediation measures. With this in mind, a full-day workshop entitled “Hydrodynamics of Marine Debris” was convened at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Hawaii, bringing together observational scientists and oceanographic modelers to outline the steps necessary to quantify the major sources and sinks of marine debris and the pathways between them. The ultimate goal in integrating the two approaches of study is to quantify the basinscale and global inventory of marine debris by closing the associated mass budgets.

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