Closing the Circle

Marine Debris, Sargassum and Marine Spatial Planning in the Eastern Caribbean

with the generous support of The Nippon Foundation

about the programme

'Human derived marine debris is by volume the greatest pollutant of the world's oceans' 

The World Maritime University WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute is pleased to implement with the generous support of The Nippon Foundation, The "Closing the Circle" Programme: Exploring challenges and advancing potential solutions to marine debris, sargassum threats and marine spatial planning (MSP) in Small Island Developing States with a particular focus on the Eastern Caribbean region. Read more and download the Programme Brochure here.

About the Programme

The Eastern Caribbean region is host to a number of small island developing states (SIDS) who heavily depend on the ecosystem services from the ocean for their social and economic development. A healthy ocean ecosystem is a prerequisite for two of the most important economic sectors sustaining these countries i.e. tourism and fisheries.

Human derived marine debris is by volume the greatest pollutant of the world's oceans. In the Caribbean, marine debris amounts triple the global average, according to a World Bank Report from 2019. Marine debris has adverse impacts on marine habitats and species, has potential human health implications and causes widespread social and economic problems. Plastic marine debris may persist 500 years or more creating an inter-generational problem of daunting scale that requires interdisciplinary approaches to be solved as well as implementation of new technological innovations. 

Additionally, the Eastern Caribbean region has recently faced a mounting problem from vast beach strandings of the normally oceanic seaweed Sargassum. The combination of marine debris and Sargassum seaweed has resulted in a wicked problem causing untold ecological impact and socioeconomic hardship for these SIDS that are highly dependent on tourism. Marine spatial planning (MSP) has emerged as a new approach to holistically plan and manage ocean space and resources. It moves away from the traditional sector based management of the ocean to an integrated approach that recognises multiple stakeholder needs as well as the impact of human activities on the marine ecosystem.

Some of the countries in the Eastern Caribbean have taken steps towards development of MSP by carrying out habitat mapping as well as stakeholder consultations. 

Focus and outline

Research Focus

Science & Technology

  • Research on sources and spatial distribution in the region 
  • Interaction with Sargassum 
  • Role of technological innovations and AI

Blue/Green Economic Responses

  • Social-economic impacts of marine litter 
  • Understanding of monetary value of ecosystem and biodiversity impacted by marine debris
  • Strengthen efforts to fight plastic litter from shipping

Societal Awareness

  • Role of ocean literacy and behavior
  • Role of awareness as key for change
  • Understanding the gender dimension of the problem
  • Inclusion, Involvement and Ownership

project Outline

4 PhD Candidates, 

1 Research Fellow

Research and Capacity building





The Team

Meet the Research Team

Kristal Ambrose



Area of Research
Assessing the Budget We Need for the Ocean We Want: A cost-benefit analysis of marine debris monitoring interventions for beaches in the Wider Caribbean Region.

Roxanne Graham


Area of Research
Using cross-boundary transformative partnerships for knowledge transfer and to bridge the gap between science and policy in combating marine litter

Tricia Lovell

(Antigua & Barbuda)

Area of Research
The Problem of Abandoned, Lost and Otherwise Discarded Gear Associated with Small-Scale Fisheries in the Eastern Caribbean: Understanding the Challenges, Defining Solutions

Kristie Alleyne



Area of Research
Spatiotemporal analyses of sargassum influx events

Sarah Mahadeo

Research Fellow
(Trinidad And Tobago)

Area of Research
Marine Spatial Planning in the Eastern Caribbean, including governance and institutional arrangements for national and regional transboundary planning.

Director, WMU-Sasakawa
Global Ocean Institute

Dalhousie University

Assistant Professor (Research/OSGM), Principal Investigator, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Programme and Operations Manager, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Former Head of Research and Co-PI, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Assistant Professor (Research/OSGM), Principal Investigator, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Sustainable Fisheries Management, Ocean Biodiversity and Marine Spatial Planning, PhD Supervisor

Project and Operations Assistant, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Associate Professor (Research/OSGM),
WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute, PhD Co-Supervisor,

Josefa Beyer

Carlo-Schmid-Program Fellow

Director, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Head of Research, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Sustainable Fisheries Management, Ocean Biodiversity and Marine Spatial Planning

External Co-Supervisor,
Marine Environmental Protection, Dalhousie University

Associate Research Officer, Programme Principal Investigator, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

Research Associate

Project Engagement and Implementation Officer, WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute



The Closing the Circle team is proud to share a video about the Blue Planning in Practice workshop and High-Level Blue Economy Roundtable that were delivered in collaboration with OECS in April 2023 in St. Lucia. The workshop included the OECS Ocean Governance Team (OGT) and the Roundtable was attended by several ministers from OECS member States. The video, jointly produced with OECS, showcases the importance of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) and the Blue Economy in the Eastern Caribbean region and the need for collaboration to support on-going work through capacity development training, outreach and research.



  • Makeda Corbin, Kristie Alleyne, Hazel A. Oxenford, Henri Vallès, "Clinging fauna associated with nearshore pelagic sargassum rafts in the Eastern Caribbean: Implications for coastal in-water harvesting"Journal of Environmental Management, Volume 352, 2024, 120077, ISSN 0301-4797,
  • Graham RED (2024) A study of illegal dumping near coastal zones and waterways in Grenada: Advancing waste management solutions and reducing marine litter. PLOS Water 3(4): e0000175.


  • Lovell, T. (2023) Managing Abandoned, Lost and Otherwise Discarded Fishing Gear (Derelict Gear) in Eastern Caribbean Small Scale Fisheries: An Assessment of Legislative, Regulatory and Policy Gaps. Marine Policy, 148, 2023. D.O.I:
  • Graham, R. (2023). Proposed Solutions for Marine Debris in the Windward Islands-Perspectives from Key Policy Makers and Policy Influencers. Frontiers Marine Science Sec. Marine Affairs and Policy, doi: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1065299
  • Stöfen-O’Brien, A. (2023). The Second Session of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee to Develop an International Legally Binding Instrument on Plastic Pollution, Including the Marine Environment. The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law, 38(4), 821-832.
  • Mahadeo S and Del Savio L (2023) Transboundary maritime cooperation: the case of the Eastern Caribbean Region. Front. Mar. Sci. 10:1251911. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1251911
  • Lovell Tricia A. (2023). Understanding the drivers, scale and impact of abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear in small-scale fisheries: an Eastern Caribbean perspective. Frontiers in Marine Science, 10.
  • Lovell, T. A (2023) 'Implementing the voluntary guidelines for the marking of fishing gear in eastern Caribbean small-scale fisheries: An assessment of gear marking provisions' . Marine Pollution Bulletin, Valume 194.
  • Alleyne, K.S.T., Johnson, D., Neat, F. et al. (2023) Seasonal variation in morphotype composition of pelagic Sargassum influx events is linked to oceanic origin. Sci Rep 13, 3753 (2023).
  • Alleyne, K. S. T., Neat, F., & Oxenford, H. A. (2023). A baseline assessment of the epiphytic community associated with pelagic sargassum in the Tropical Atlantic. Aquatic Botany, 186, 103635. .
  • Alleyne KST, Small M, Corbin M, Vallès H and Oxenford HA (2023) Free-swimming fauna associated with influxes of pelagic sargassum: Implications for management and harvesting. Front. Mar. Sci. 10:1090742. doi: 10.3389/fmars.2023.1090742
  • Graham, R. (2023). The marine litter issue in the Windward Islands - a pathway to responses using the DPSIR framework. Frontiers in Environmental Science, 11, doi: 10.3389/fenvs.2023.1150722
  • Ambrose, K.K., Walker, T.R. (2023) Spatial assessment of micro and meso plastic concentrations on beaches in South Eleuthera, Bahamas: Identifying research limitations and standards needed to support microplastic monitoring on WCR beaches'. Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 193.
  • Ambrose, K.K., Walker, T. R. (2023). Identifying opportunities for harmonized microplastics and mesoplastics monitoring for Caribbean Small Island Developing States using a spatiotemporal assessment of beaches in South Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 193, 2023, 115140, ISSN 0025-326X,


  • Stöfen-O′Brien, A., Naji, A.,Brooks, A. L., R. Jambeck, J., Khan, F. R. (2022). Marine plastic debris in the Arabian/Persian Gulf: Challenges, opportunities and recommendations from a transdisciplinary perspective, Marine Policy, 136.
  • Stöfen-O'Brien, A., Kristene Ambrose, K., S.T. Alleyne, K., Allison Lovell, T., E.D. Graham, R. (2022). Parachute science through a regional lens: Marine litter research in the Caribbean Small Island Developing States and the challenge of extra-regional research, Marine Pollution Bulletin, 174.
  • Stöfen-O’Brien, A., Doelle, A. J., & Del Savio, L. (2022). Cities and Sustainable Ocean Governance: A Neglected Link. The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law (published online ahead of print 2022).
  • Morf, A., Moodie, J., Cedergren, E., Eliasen, S. Q., Gee, K., Kull, M., Mahadeo, S., Husa S. & Vološina M. (2022). Challenges and Enablers to Integrate Land-Sea-Interactions in Cross-Border Marine and Coastal Planning: Experiences from the Pan Baltic Scope Collaboration. Planning Practice & Research, 37(3), 333-354.
  • Graham, R. E.D. (2022). Achieving greater policy coherence and harmonisation for marine litter management in the North-East Atlantic and Wider Caribbean Region. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 180, 113818.
  • Stöfen-O’Brien, A. (2022). The Prospects of an International Treaty on Plastic Pollution, The International Journal of Marine and Coastal Law (published online ahead of print 2022). doi:
  • Savio, L. D. (2022). The Role of Trade in Governing Plastic Pollution. Ocean & Coastal Law Journal, 27(1).
  • Alleyne, K. S. 2022. How is Pelagic Sargassum-Associated Biodiversity Assessed? Insights from the Literature. Gulf and Caribbean Research 33 (1): GCFI 14-GCFI 23. doi:
  • Mahadeo, S. (2022). Marine spatial planning in the Eastern Caribbean: Trends and progress. Marine Policy, 145, 105277.
  • Allison Lovell, T. (forthcoming) Managing abandoned, lost and otherwise discarded fishing gear (Derelict Gear) in Eastern Caribbean small -scale fisheries: An assessment of legislative, regulatory and policy gaps, Marine Policy.


  • Ambrose, K.K. (2021) Coordination and harmonization of a marine plastic debris monitoring program for beaches in the Wider Caribbean Region: Identifying strategic pathways forward. Marine Pollution Bulletin 171: 112766.
  • "Galgani, F., Brien, A.Stöfen-O´Brien, Weis, J. et al. (2021). Are litter, plastic and microplastic quantities increasing in the ocean?. Micropl.& Nanopl. 1, 2.
  • A.Stöfen-O´Brien et al., (2021). Chapter 12: Dumping of Solid Waste Management, World Ocean Assessment II, 2021.
  • Stöfen-O’Brien, A. (2021). New Beginnings: Towards a Global Treaty on Marine Plastic Pollution-Perspectives from the Asia-Pacific Region, Asia-Pacific Journal of Ocean Law and Policy, 6(2), 332-340.


March 27, 2024

March 17, 2023

December 13, 2022


Contact Information

Find us here: Fiskehamnsgatan 1


Phone: +46 40 356 351