Closing the Circle

Closing the Circle: Marine Debris, Sargassum and Marine Spatial Planning in the Eastern Caribbean
Project Duration
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Project Website

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 litter 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.

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 litter 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.

Contractors
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Principal Investigator
Aleke Stöfen-O’Brien
Associate Research Officer, Global Ocean Institute
Project Officer
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