Entangled in Policy: A Test Study to Determine Obstacles Created by Marine Debris Removal Laws and Management in Massachusetts
AbstractIn the past decade, marine debris has rapidly gained attention, and is now being recognized as one of the greatest threats to ocean habitats, marine life, and human health. All over the planet, animals are being discovered deceased, due to interactions with marine debris, specifically plastic pollution and derelict fishing gear (often referred to as ghost gear). Marine debris impacts wildlife in a number of ways. When it is it ingested, it can cause internal tissue damage and increase the risk of choking, it can fill the animal’s stomach, creating buoyancy issues and an inability to get proper nutrition.
With human related cetacean mortality rates from ship strike and fishing gear entanglement at a record high, now more than ever it is important to investigate what can be done, and what is being done to mitigate threats to these animals. Drastic changes to policy that would mitigate marine debris accumulation have yet to occur despite growing the likelihood that Right whales may soon go extinct. Shoreline debris removal would be a solution that addresses marine debris as it washes ashore, before it can be allowed to reenter the ocean environment. Under current policy, removal of derelict lobster trap debris is prohibited without proper permitting; however, these regulations may be creating more issues, and not serving to address trap theft, as intended.
Over a 6 month marine debris accumulation study, at Long Beach, at Marblehead Neck, Massachusetts, I not only documented marine debris washing ashore, but also obstacles that interfered with the potential success of this project. These obstacles included vague policy, lack of responsible management, beachfront homeowners, and irate fishermen.
My research sought to determine how much derelict gear could be removed from Long Beach, at Marblehead Neck, over a 6-month period, and what trends in gear accumulation can be revealed by analysis of monthly data from scheduled systematic cleanups? Based on accumulation totals and trends, what would be optimal management strategies to perform Division of Marine Fisheries (DMF) regulated cleanup efforts? Additionally, are current regulations governing lobster fishing gear removal and cleanup understood by those who frequently come in contact with derelict gear e.g., beach cleanup organizers and participants, boaters, fishermen, and beach goers? In a six-month period I estimated that 1,000 pounds of derelict fishing gear (not including unmovable large gear masses) would accumulate on Long Beach, at Marblehead Neck, in Marblehead MA. My results showed far less debris accumulation than what I expected, with a total 493 lb collected and removed over the six month survey period.
During the course of this thesis, some policy revisions have been made in an effort to lessen negative impacts on New England cetaceans. The effects of these revisions may not be easily observed, and may require future cetacean mortalities to determine best practices. With increased debris mitigating efforts, trap debris should decrease. However, this can only be quantified and confirmed by preforming marine debris accumulation surveys, like the one used in my research.
Citable link to this pagehttp://nrs.harvard.edu/urn-3:HUL.InstRepos:37945148