Conference Theme

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Conference Theme = Waves of Change: Global lessons to inspire local action

This conference is being organized and planned to truly facilitate the “Waves of Change” as its theme describes, building on past conferences and efforts as well as increased momentum and interest in marine debris around the world.

Here is our story…

A Global Issue

United KingdomMarine debris is a historical problem that continues to grow, with innumerable sources, impacts, and global scope. The world’s oceans and waterways are constantly polluted with a variety of marine debris ranging from soda cans and plastic bags to derelict fishing gear, from tiny microplastics to large abandoned vessels. Many animals, including sea turtles, seabirds, and marine mammals, ingest marine debris, which may lead to, internal injuries, starvation, and even death. Derelict fishing gear, such as fishing nets and lines, poses entanglement hazards for marine life, can smother the living substrate upon which it settles, and can serve as a vector for the introduction of alien species. Marine debris is also a navigational hazard and poses a risk to human health and safety. All of these impacts come with an economic cost. Marine debris washes up on beaches and shorelines worldwide, can travel from one country to another via ocean currents, and impacts commercial fisheries throughout the world. International cooperation is needed to create public awareness while developing ways to decrease the impacts of debris in oceans around the globe.

Marine debris is truly a global issue, not simply in geographic range, but also in the breadth of methods to address it. This multi-faceted problem requires a range of locally relevant solutions and people in organizations, agencies, community groups, industry, businesses, and academia around the world working to solve it. The Fifth International Marine Debris Conference will bring these people together to share information and learn from one another so that together we can move forward towards solving the problem of marine debris.

conference photoPast Conferences

Cooperation and coordination among many countries was fostered through four previous International Marine Debris Conferences held between 1984 and 2000, as well as through smaller international agreements, meetings, and workshops. Each conference developed a suite of recommendations on how to move forward to address these ecologically and economically important issues. Some recommendations were implemented, while many others were repeatedly identified as persistent issues at multiple conferences and meetings over the past 25 years.

A Building Wave

cleanupSince marine debris became an issue, and certainly since the last International Marine Debris Conference in 2000, groups have been working around the world to address this pervasive problem. Like a wave that is built and affected by a combination of individual and synergistic forces, the field of marine debris has numerous entities, regionally and globally, working towards the ultimate goal of a world without the impacts of marine debris.

Since the last International Marine Debris Conference, public awareness on the issue of marine debris has risen along with an overall increased awareness of environmental issues around the world. Stories on the “great Pacific garbage patch” were picked up by media internationally, capturing the public’s attention and raising concerns about marine debris. Indeed, there has been a groundswell of support for actions aimed at understanding and reducing the impacts of marine debris, from systems for reporting lost fishing gear to degradable “rot cords” on crab pots, from deposits or fees on consumer goods like cans and plastic bags to volunteer beach cleanups.

Riding the Wave

GhanaThe Fifth International Marine Debris Conference, in both timing and location, is well-positioned to catch the wave of public and media interest, support from a wide range of sectors, new and exciting research and activities, and the ongoing passion and dedication of those directly involved in the field.

The ride, however, may not be a smooth one; these are difficult times for people, economies, and countries around the world. From government agencies to non-profit groups, industries to the individual, we have all felt the pinch of these rough times. In light of these challenges, it is even more important that we capitalize on our collective knowledge and leverage one another’s knowledge and accomplishments.

Global Lessons to Inspire Local Action

cleanupIt is our hope that this conference will open a new chapter in the field of marine debris by reinvigorating our efforts, providing new tools and information, and inspiring innovation. This new era relies on sharing across borders—building upon successes, taking away lessons from others’ experiences, and working towards common goals. This conference is being designed with a variety of tracks, themes, and session types, with all paths leading to the shared goal of moving forward, globally and locally, in combating the economic and environmental impacts of marine debris.

Using sound science as a foundation, the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference is designed to reach beyond the “typical conference”; participants should expect innovative sessions and workshops, an ambitious agenda, and every opportunity to share and learn from the experiences and passion of others.

We hope that this conference will successfully build new partnerships, further raise public awareness and support, and inspire follow-up actions that will take us closer to a world free of the impacts of marine debris.

*Photos courtesy of (top to bottom) Marine Conservation Society-United Kingdom, NOAA Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary (USA), Northwest Pacific Action Plan (NOWPAP; Japan), K. Chanon (NOAA NMFS; Ghana), and NOAA Marine Debris Program (South Korea).
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