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Conway, J., and W. McFee. 2015. Defining and documenting marine debris interactions with wildlife. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 199. Charleston, SC. 52 pp. https://doi.org/10.7289/V5/TM-NOS-NCCOS-199

Data/Report Type:

NOAA Technical Memorandum


Over the past several decades, the input of anthropogenic litter into the marine system has been an increasing global concern, with negative ecological and environmental consequences. Plastics, abandoned fishing gear and other debris can have serious effects on marine animals, via entanglement and ingestion. Wildlife stranding and response networks have been established since the 1980s throughout the United States in an effort to identify and gain insight to the dynamics of marine animal populations. Many of these networks placed a high priority on classifying and analyzing the impact that humans have on populations of marine animals. While Federal agencies oversee the response of stranded or injured marine taxa, protocols for identifying and documenting human interaction cases are not universally standardized. Smaller institutions ultimately handle human interaction incidents independently before submitting to their appropriate agency, which limits the amount of consistently collected data that can be combined and accessed to conduct large-scale research. This study outlines the difficulties and inconsistencies involved in documenting marine debris interactions through a review of current practices, and provides recommendations to increase the amount of obtainable data for widespread studies.

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