March 10

Webinar – Marine Litter in the Eastern Caribbean


As part of the International Maritime Organization’s (IMO) Ocean Group Webinar Series, on 10 March, the World Maritime University (WMU)-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute welcomed the international community to a public webinar, “No Space for Rubbish: Research Approaches to Reduce Pressures of Marine Litter in the Eastern Caribbean Region,” that focused on research of The Nippon Foundation-WMU Closing the Circle Programme; Marine Debris, Sargassum and Marine Spatial Planning (MSP).

In his welcoming remarks, Mr. Andrew Birchenough, Technical Officer at the IMO’s Office for the London Convention/Protocol and Ocean Affairs, Marine Environment Division, noted that knowledge sharing and collaboration on various marine issues are core elements in reaching successful outcomes. He also expressed gratitude for the IMO Webinar Series which serves as an excellent forum to disseminate research conducted by academic institutions such as WMU.

Professor Ronán Long, Director of the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute, made opening remarks and thanked the IMO, The Nippon Foundation, and the Governments of Sweden, Canada and Germany for their invaluable support to the Institute. He highlighted the various research programmes at the WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute and the significant progress made to date, including the important contribution of WMU Associate Research Officer, Dr Aleke Stöfen-O’Brien, to the Second World Ocean Assessment serving as co-convenor and author of Chapter 12 which deals with marine debris and dumping.

The presentations that followed focused on the importance of the health of marine ecosystems and the ocean environment that are threatened by marine debris in many forms and from many sources. Dr. Stöfen-O’Brien, Principal Investigator for the Closing the Circle project, presented the objectives and work plan highlighting the work undertaken to date including a range of peer-reviewed articles, workshops, a webinar series, and engagement in international processes under the UN General Assembly, IOC UNESCO and the IMO. Dr Stöfen-O’Brien presented a key publication of the research team which found that marine litter research in the Small Island Developing States (SIDS) in the Eastern Caribbean is subject to parachute science. Published in Marine Pollution Bulletin, the paper concluded that a significant amount of research undertaken on marine litter in the SIDS is done by researchers from developed countries without meaningful engagement of local researchers or organizations. This ultimately has consequences for the effectiveness of proposed measures and Dr Stöfen-O’Brien proposed recommendations on how to address the issue.

Presenting her experiences and lessons learnt regarding assessing marine debris management on an inter-regional scale, WMU PhD candidate, Roxanne Graham, discussed the usefulness of inter-regional collaboration such as the collaboration between the North-east Atlantic and Wider Caribbean Region via the OSPAR Convention and Cartagena Convention respectively. She highlighted the importance of coherence in regional policy and where regions can improve in their planning, as well as the existing benefits in North-South, South-South and Triangular Cooperations. Ms Graham noted that although there are opportunities in inter-regional collaborations (particularly developed with developing), narrowing the scale when it comes to managing marine debris, is crucial. Functioning systems in developed countries may be used as a point of reference or guide, but their methods may not be appropriate to the lesser developed countries like those of the Wider Caribbean Region (WCR). Her presentation concluded with recent research developments focused on the Windward Islands and how global initiatives may influence management responses via the DPSIR Framework.

WMU PhD candidate, Kristal Ambrose, discussed marine plastic litter in the context of the WCR including the challenge of monitoring the transboundary issue. She drew attention to the need for coordinated and harmonized monitoring activities to support policy interventions for marine debris. Her research to date has revealed that current marine debris monitoring protocols conducted within the region vary significantly, resulting in the inability to compare data across the region to drive adequate interventions.

Challenges to effective governance of abandoned, lost and discarded fishing gear (ALDFG) in the context Eastern Caribbean small scale fisheries were presented by WMU PhD candidate, Tricia Lovell. She highlighted existing knowledge gaps related to this complex challenge for the sub-region in addition to providing insight on the local vulnerabilities of the small-island states and the complex geopolitical climate of the Caribbean. Among the governance challenges considered, Ms Lovell proposed that there is a strong need for continued research focused on understanding the scope and scale of this challenge within the Eastern Caribbean, including improvements in national legislative provisions for managing ALDFG and exploration of mechanisms to achieve improved policy coherence among the maze of regional and national level institutions with a role in governing this threat.

The potential of Marine Spatial Planning (MSP) for pollution control was presented by WMU Research Fellow, Sarah Mahadeo. She noted that some researchers have suggested that MSP may not be suited to addressing marine debris (ICES, 2021), while others are attempting to find solutions through application of the area-based management tool in what is an emerging area of research. Ms Mahadeo focused on two recently developed conceptual frameworks, land-sea interactions in MSP (Kidd, 2020) and the source-to-sea framework for marine litter prevention (Matthews and Straetz, 2019). Both frameworks position MSP as part of a wider suite of governance approaches across land and sea to manage marine debris. Applying a systems approach, MSP works together with integrated water resources management (IWRM), terrestrial planning and integrated coastal zone management (ICZM).

To access the webinar recording, click here.

About the Closing the Circle Programme

The Closing the Circle Programme commenced on 1 January 2020 with generous funding from The Nippon Foundation. The principal aim of the programme is to explore challenges and advance potential solutions to marine debris and Sargassum threats in Small Island Developing States with a particular focus on the Eastern Caribbean region. Further information on the WMU-GOI Closing the Circle project is available here.

About the World Maritime University and WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute

The World Maritime University (WMU) in Malmö, Sweden is established within the framework of the International Maritime Organization, a specialized agency of the United Nations. The mission of WMU is to be the world center of excellence in postgraduate maritime and oceans education, professional training and research, while building global capacity and promoting sustainable development. WMU’s vision is to inspire leadership and innovation for a sustainable maritime and oceans future. WMU is an organization by and for the international maritime community and is committed to the United Nations 2030 Sustainable Development Agenda.

The WMU-Sasakawa Global Ocean Institute was inaugurated in May 2018 and made possible through generous support from The Nippon Foundation of Japan, the Governments of Sweden, Canada, and Germany, as well as the City of Malmö. The vision of the Institute is to act as an independent focal point for the ocean science-policy-law-industry-society interface where policy makers, the scientific community, regulators, industry actors, academics, and representatives of civil society meet to discuss how best to manage and use ocean spaces and their resources in accordance with the United Nations 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development

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