Tools for marine debris management: A case study of beaches in South Eleuthera, The Bahamas
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There is a paucity of information on the abundance and distribution of marine debris on beaches throughout The Bahamas, making it challenging to inform policy aimed at identifying sources and mitigating local contributions. This study provided the first report of the spatial distribution of macro and micro plastic debris on beaches in South Eleuthera and examined tools such as citizen science, beach debris monitoring, fetch modeling, relative exposure index modeling and predictive mapping to aid in mitigation and management strategies for marine debris in The Bahamas. Here, trained citizen scientists quantified debris type and abundance on 16 beaches within three coastal exposures; The Atlantic Ocean, Great Bahama Bank and The Exuma Sound in South Eleuthera, The Bahamas. Marine debris, larger than 1mm, on each beach was monitored twice in one year between March-May 2013 and September-November 2013, at the same location, verified using GPS. Approximately, 93% of all debris types collected were plastic materials with plastic fragments ≤2.5 cm as the most dominant. There proved to be a spatial difference (p=<0.0001) in plastic debris abundance between coastal exposures with Atlantic Ocean beaches demonstrating larger amounts of plastic debris by weight and per length of shoreline. Such plastic deposits may be associated with Atlantic Ocean currents connected to waste leakages from the North Atlantic subtropical gyre. Keywords: Marine debris, marine litter, plastic pollution, citizen science, Eleuthera, Bahamas, Atlantic Ocean, Exuma Sound, Bahama Bank, policy, marine debris management, marine debris surveys, relative exposure index (REI), predictive mapping, fetch modeling.