There is mounting concern over the increase in debris in our ocean and the potential for that debris to assist in the spread of non-native species. While the pathways associated with global shipping draw the greatest amount of attention regarding marine invasives, the purpose of this paper is to consider the potential role that marine debris may play in introducing non-native species that may become invasive. This report reviews the scientific literature that exists on the subject and identifies areas where more research is needed.
Wildlife and Habitat Impacts
Marine debris produces a wide variety of environmental, economic, safety, health, and cultural impacts and is rapidly achieving recognition as a key anthropogenic threat to global oceanic ecosystems. A central theme of research on habitat degradation via marine debris is determining the impact of specific types of debris (abandoned or derelict fishing gear and plastics in particular) on sensitive habitats.
This report reviews the state of the science regarding the occurrence and known health effects of marine debris. A broad level synthesis is provided. The presence and accumulation of ingestible anthropogenic debris in the marine environment, records of ingestion for a wide range of organisms, as well as observed and postulated health effects from field and laboratory studies are discussed. Knowledge gaps in the literature are identified, and suggestions for how they may be addressed are provided.
Entanglement of marine species in marine debris is a global problem affecting at least 200 species. Based on the literature reviewed in the United States alone, at least 115 species of marine mammals, sea turtles, sea birds, fish, and invertebrates are affected. This review of the literature focused primarily on marine debris entanglement specific to the U.S., incorporating over 170 reports dating as far back as 1928. Click here for more.
This report is a summary of the current scientific knowledge of ghost fishing, the derelict fishing gear that contribute to it, the species mortalities, and the economic losses to certain fisheries due to ghost fishing mortalities. Gaps in knowledge are identified, and suggestions for the prevention and mitigation of DFG and possible future research foci are presented here within the framework of prevention, removal, and education as means of reducing ghost fishing. Click here for more.