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Invited Session Speakers and Abstracts


Saturday, April 26, 2014


Paul Michel,
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Dr. James Lindholm,
James W. Rote Distinguished Professor of Marine Science and Policy,
Director, Institute for Applied Marine Ecology, CSU Monterey Bay
Chair, Sanctuary Research Activity Panel
Research Representative, Sanctuary Advisory Panel

Dr. Andrew DeVogelaere (Moderator),
Research Coordinator and SIMoN Program Director,
Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary

Trash in the deep sea: Bringing a hidden problem to light

Susan von Thun
Senior Research Technician
Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute

Worldwide concern about marine debris has increased over the last decade as scientists and media outlets have brought the issue into the public eye. Using advanced technologies, such as remotely operated vehicles, the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) is helping to uncover the far-reaching presence of man-made debris in deep ocean ecosystems. Over the past 25 years, we have recorded evidence of debris up to 13,000 feet deep and 300 miles offshore from waters off of central and southern California, the Pacific Northwest, Hawaii, and the Gulf of California. In the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, the majority of debris items were single-use, recyclable items. Plastic shopping bags and aluminum beverage cans were most common. Surprisingly, plastic and metal were found relatively more frequently at deeper depths, suggesting that the extent of debris on the seafloor may be far greater than known to date. This evidence implies that submarine canyons may collect and serve as conduits for transporting debris from coastal to deep-sea habitats. Monterey Canyon is one of the best-studied areas of the world's deep ocean and with vast regions of the deep sea remaining unexplored, we can presume that the amount of marine debris greatly exceeds that reported to date. It is far too expensive and impractical to locate and retrieve debris already on the deep seafloor. The best solution is to reduce our reliance upon single-use, throwaway items. Recycling, reusing, and properly disposing of trash items will help keep litter from entering the ocean.

The invisible consequences of mistaking plastic for dinner

Dr. Chelsea Rochman
Postdoctoral Scholar
Aquatic Health Program, School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California Davis

Plastic debris has become recognized as a serious threat in marine habitats globally. This material contaminates habitats from the poles to the equator and species of marine life globally via entanglement and ingestion. Today, it is a fact that hundreds of species have been found with plastic debris in their gut content. One of the 'so what?' questions often raised is, "how is plastic harming wildlife upon ingestion?" Such process may be physical and/or chemical in nature. For example, plastic debris carries toxins such as BPA and flame-retardants (e.g. PBDEs) from the manufacturing process, and also sorbs chemical pollutants such as pesticides (e.g. DDT), industrial chemicals (e.g. PCBs), metals (e.g. lead) and petroleum combustion products (e.g. PAHs) from surrounding waters. We examined the consequences of plastic ingestion in fish, as we know that over 40 species of fish have been shown to ingest this material. Moreover, we chose fish because it is commonly consumed as seafood by our own species. We exposed polyethylene plastic, clean and with sorbed chemical contaminants from San Diego Bay, CA, to adult Japanese medaka (Oryzias latipes) for 1- and 2-month periods and tested for several endpoints including: bioaccumulation of chemicals, mortality, weight loss, histopathology and gene expression. Results from this study in addition to information regarding the hazards of plastic debris will be presented.

Tracking the trash: Distribution of marine plastic pollution on surface waters (2009 to present)

Carolynn Box
Environmental Coordinator
5 Gyres Institute

Plastic pollution, plastic trash mainly entering our water bodies from land-based sources, has been documented in the five subtropical gyres and Great Lakes. The 5 Gyres Institute has collected over 600 surface water samples during 12 expeditions confirming through scientific research that plastic pollution is a worldwide environmental issue. By inviting scientists, policy makers, ocean enthusiasts, and socially conscience companies, 5 Gyres has been able to collect important scientific data that supports 5 Gyres' mission to promote solutions to plastic pollution.

Using unique 335 micron mesh neuston nets deployed from sailing vessels, 5 Gyres continues to document the abundance and weight of plastic pollution throughout many unchartered areas of the world's oceans. Visual observations of large floating debris is documented through one-hour observations, revealing important information that can be combined with the neuston net data to understand the complete picture of the plastic pollution burden on our oceans. Highest concentrations have been documented in the Mediterranean Sea at up to 890,000 plastic pieces per square kilometer and over 92% of our samples collected worldwide contained plastic pollution. These sets of data have been incorporated into an ocean model to estimate the global distribution, count and weight density, of marine plastic pollution. Model results show interesting patterns of accumulation, but also high production areas, or "hot spots," where land-based contributions of plastic are heaviest.

In order to be more efficient and effective in monitoring plastic pollution, 5 Gyres has developed a citizen science program, called "iGyre," which allows partnering organizations, volunteer scientists, sailors, and adventurers to collect valid scientific data that will be utilized to update our oceanographic model each year. 5 Gyres anticipates that this effort will more than quadruple the available data globally.

The endless and magical promise of plastic: From babies, to airplanes, to toothpaste

Daniella Russo
Executive Director and Co-founder
Plastic Pollution Coalition

Plastic pollution is a global threat, and one of the great challenges facing the planet today. It is the nexus of eco-system degradation, environmental justice and public health. Marine plastic pollution is directly linked to the explosive rate of consumption of disposable plastic on land. It affects all life and all eco-systems. The need for response is urgent. We must confront this crisis with a bold systems approach, combining viral behavior change, disruptive innovation, and forward thinking policies.

Picking it up: Collecting data and trash to protect our coast and ocean

Eben Schwartz
Marine Debris Program Manager
California Coastal Commission

California Coastal Cleanup Day is the biggest and one of the longest-running volunteer events in the state. Since 1985, participants have turned out by the tens of thousands to beaches and inland waterways throughout California, scouring the environment clean of the litter and other debris that accumulates over the course of the year. Equally important, volunteers in most areas collect data on the trash they are picking up. This data record has provided invaluable insight into what the most frequently littered items are, where they can be found, and even where they may have originated. The data were originally used to inform educational efforts and to help the California Coastal Commission expand the cleanup beyond its original focus on the coast – the cleanup now operates in 54 of California's 58 counties. More recently, advocacy groups and local governments have used the data as a basis for passing new regulations such as smoking bans and limits on plastic bags and expanded polystyrene foodware. As we move into the future, this critical form of citizen science will inform policymakers and the public about the effectiveness of specific actions that have been undertaken with the goal of reducing the amount of marine debris created and preventing the flow of that debris to our ocean.

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