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Gulf of Mexico Alliance Cross Team Initiative Meeting Doubles Down on Marine Debris

FEBRUARY 8, 2019 — On December 12 and 13, the NOAA Marine Debris Program collaborated with the Gulf of Mexico Alliance (GOMA) and the Environmental Protection Agency to host more than 40 partners at the GOMA Marine Debris Mid-year Meeting and Workshop.

Students watching a screen in a classroom.
Partners from across all five Gulf states and various organizations work together during the industry engagement session. Image credit: NOAA.

The workshop was held at the NOAA Disaster Response Center in Mobile, Alabama and convened representatives from all five Gulf states (Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, and Florida). During the event, participants learned how business and industry partners are working to address marine debris and identified ways that GOMA’s Marine Debris Cross Team could be involved in their efforts.

The workshop included a range of private sector perspectives. For example, Jennifer Ronk, Sustainability and Advocacy Manager from DOW Chemical, presented on DOW’s sustainability initiatives related to the circular economy, material design, and their public grant competition. Ryan Bradley, Director of Mississippi Commercial Fisheries United, shared insights from the Gulf fishing community, including the economic impacts of derelict crab pots and other types of marine debris on the shrimp industry due to boat and net damages, lost time, and decreased catch.

The workshop also focused on updating the GOMA Marine Debris Cross Team’s goals and objectives in the Governors’ Action Plan III for Healthy and Resilient Coasts to address debris generated by both storm events and chronic, persisting issues. Participants developed actions to address marine debris in three categories:

Assess and reduce the impacts of marine debris and aquatic trash through research, monitoring, and innovative solutions;

Support the removal of marine debris and aquatic trash to reduce impacts to habitats, wildlife and fisheries, navigational safety, humans, and the economy; and

Prevent the introduction of marine debris and aquatic trash by raising awareness and improving individual stewardship through local, regional and national coastal and river cleanups. Additionally, they discussed storm debris, microplastics, and methods to reach broad audiences, including creating PSA videos about derelict fishing gear.  

Workshop attendees were diverse, representing local, state, and federal governments, nonprofits, academic institutions, and industry. Their collaboration, both at this event and previous biannual workshops, will culminate in 2021 when the Governors’ Action Plan III wraps up and the NOAA Marine Debris Program begins planning for its fourth update to the Gulf of Mexico Marine Debris Action Plan. This and future action plans serve to facilitate and track marine debris activities across the Gulf of Mexico, as well as provide a focused direction for tackling marine debris issues on local, state, and regional scales.

For more information, please contact Caitlin.Wessel@noaa.gov.

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