March 6 - 12, 2018 - San Diego, California                                                                                                                                                                                                        


The movement of debris from land-based sources, as well as debris input from the ocean-based fishing industry into oceanic current systems have been shown to result in the accumulation of marine debris in subtropical gyres. Subtropical gyres serve essential roles as nursery areas for many pelagic species, including sea turtles. The accumulation of persistent plastic debris in these areas serves to skew the species distribution. Species that utilize the available and accumulated debris will find these conditions to be favorable, whereas others will not. Modelling in these areas show how the debris move with the oceanic currents into the gyre accumulation areas. In addition, monitoring by organizations, such as Algalita Marine Research and Education, has documented substantial increases in the quantity of debris in an area known as the "Eastern Garbage Patch." This area has been shown to be a heavy accumulation zone within the north Pacific subtropical gyre. Recent surveys have shown that certain coastal species such as sea anemones are increasing in these areas. The accumulation of debris in subtropical gyres also affects foraging opportunities for seabirds, such as the albatross. Analysis of the stomach contents of Laysan albatross on Midway and Kure Atolls show that bottle caps are the most common ingested debris item.

These examples show how much work remains to be done to address the changes in species composition and survival in areas of high debris accumulation. With the recent monitoring in remote areas of the south Pacific gyre and Arctic showing the presence of persistent marine debris, this problem has been elevated to even more of a global scale, with clear international implications. The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference is a perfect forum for continuing the discussions on how to address this significant environmental problem. The goal of this session will be to bring together those doing research in these areas, not only to report on the research, but also to strategize moving forward in order to develop methodologies and recommendations for actions to address the overarching problem.

Session Chairs, Captain Charles Moore, Algalita Marine Research and Education, and Shelly Moore, Southern California Coastal Waters Research Project, have called for abstracts for their technical session on the importance of oceanic subtropical gyres as debris accumulation zones and how they affect ocean life, in the following areas:

  1. Hitchhikers, Fouling Organisms, and Species Distribution in and through the subtropical gyres
  2. Modelling of currents into, within, and out of subtropical gyres
  3. Types of plastics and quantities in subtropical gyres
  4. Actions leading to mitigation of the problem of plastic accumulation in subtropical gyres

Charles Moore

Algalita Marine Research and Education or (562)4394545