Current measures to prevent and reduce marine debris are inadequate, and the problem will likely worsen, says a new congressionally mandated report from the US National Research Council.
US and the international maritime community should adopt a goal of "zero discharge" of waste into the marine environment, anda system to assess the effectiveness of existing and future marinedebris prevention and reduction actions should be implemented, says the report.
"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.
"We concluded that the United States must take the lead and coordinate with other coastal countries, as well as with local andstate governments, to better manage marine debris and try to achieve zero discharge."
Marine debris, man-made materials that intentionally or accidentally enter and pollute the ocean, can cause significant harm. For instance, birds, fish, and marine mammals ingest debris,especially plastics, which can lead to digestive problems and uptake of toxic compounds. Animals can also suffer injuries or dieafter becoming entangled in fishing-related debris such as plasticnet fragments, rope, and packing straps.
Marine debris also poses a health and safety hazard to beachgoers and divers, and could impact coastal recreation and tourism revenue.
Although USCongress previously called for federal interagency coordination to address the marine debris problem, leadership and governance remain inefficient and current mitigation efforts are episodic and crisis driven, the committee found.
Therefore, the committee suggested that in U.S., a national framework to identify priorities for dealing with marine debris and its removal efforts should be established. Additionally, Congress should designate a lead agency to expand programs to comprehensively address the problem.
(Xinhua News Agency September 22, 2008)