Skip to main content

Marine pollution originating from purse seine and longline fishing vessel operations in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, 2003–2015


Fisheries observer data recorded between 2003 and 2015 on-board purse seine and longline vessels operating in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean reported more than 10 000 pollution incidents within the exclusive economic zones (EEZs) of 25 Pacific countries and territories, and in international waters. A majority of the reported purse seine pollution incidents related to dumping of plastics waste. Other common pollution incidents related to oil spillages and to abandoned, lost or dumped fishing gear. Data analysis highlighted the need for increased monitoring, reporting, and enforcement of pollution violations by all types of fishing vessels operating in the Pacific region; a regional outreach and compliance assistance programme on marine pollution prevention and improvements in Pacific port waste reception facilities.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

Fig. 1

Source Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), 2015

Fig. 2

Source Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP), 2015

Fig. 3
Fig. 4
Fig. 5
Fig. 6

Source Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme (SPREP)


  1. Entanglement: (World Animal Protection 2014; Macfayden et al. 2009; Laist 1997).

  2. Ingestion: (Laist 1997; Rochman et al. 2013, 2014; Van Cauwenberghe and Janssen 2014; Romeo et al. 2015).

  3. Introduction of invasive species: (Barnes 2002; Winston et al. 1997; Zettler et al. 2013).

  4. Negative impacts to tourism and fishing dependent economies: (Hall 2000; Nash 1992; Ballance et al. 2000; Leggett et al. 2014; IMO 2015a, b, c; UNEP 2009).

  5. Costs to vessels: (Hall 2000; UNEP 2009).

  6. Destruction to important and fragile ecosystems: (Hall et al. 2015; Donohue et al. 2001).

  7. Smothering: (Gregory 2009; Schlining et al. 2013); and

  8. High financial costs of cleanup: (Ballance et al. 2000; Leggett et al. 2014; UNEP 2014).

  9. MARPOL and its associated annexes can be found through IMO Publishing: Virtual Publications, MARPOL on the Web.

  10. These 11 countries include Cook Islands, Kiribati, Marshall Islands, Niue, Palau, Papua New Guinea, Samoa, Solomon Islands, Tonga, Tuvalu and Vanuatu. Of the 14 SPREP member Pacific island countries, only Fiji, Federated States of Micronesia and Nauru are not Contracting Parties to MARPOL Annex I/II and V (IMO Status of Conventions 2015a, b, c). Fiji, however, has draft legislation in place for MARPOL Annexes I, II, IV and V.

  11. Exceptions include food wastes, non-harmful cargo residues, non-harmful cleaning agents contained in wash waters and carcasses of animals carried on-board as cargo and which died during the voyage (IMO 2015a, b, c).


  • Ballance, A., P.G. Ryan, and J. Turpie. 2000. How much is a clean beach worth? The impact of litter on beach users in the Cape Peninsula, South Africa. South African Journal of Science 96: 210–213.

    Google Scholar 

  • Barnes, D.K.A., F. Galgani, R.C. Thompson, and M. Barlaz. 2009. Accumulation and fragmentation of plastic debris in global environments. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 364: 1985–1998.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Barnes, D.K.A. 2002. Biodiversity: Invasions by marine life on plastic debris. Nature 416: 808–809.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Davies, T.K., C.C. Mees, and E.J. Milner-Gulland. 2014. The past, present and future use of drifting fish aggregating devices (FADs) in the Indian Ocean. Marine Policy 45: 163–170.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Donohue, M.J., R.C. Boland, C.M. Sramek, and G.A. Antonelis. 2001. Derelict fishing gear in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands: Diving surveys and debris removal in 1999 confirm threat to coral reef ecosystems. Marine Pollution Bulletin 42: 1301–1312.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fonteneau, A., E. Chassot, and N. Bodin. 2013. Global spatio-temporal patterns in tropical tuna purse seine fisheries on drifting fish aggregating devices (DFADs): Taking a historical perspective to inform current challenges. Aquatic Living Resources 26: 37–48.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • GEF-CReW. 2015. Caribbean regional fund for wastewater management, GEF-CReW (Global Environment Facility Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management). Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

  • GESAMP (Group of Experts on the Scientific Aspects of Marine Pollution). 1991. The state of the marine environment. London: Blackwell Scientific Publications.

    Google Scholar 

  • Gregory, M.R. 2009. Environmental implications of plastic debris in marine settings—entanglement, ingestion, smothering, hangers-on, hitch-hiking and alien invasions. Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 364: 2013–2025.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Greenpeace. 2015. Greenpeace warns of proposals that would pave the way for large increases in fishing capacity-Greenpeace Briefing to the 19th Annual Meeting of the IOTC. 19th Annual Meeting of the Indian Ocean Tuna Commission, Busan, Korea, 27 April-1 May, 2015. IOTC-2015-S19-NGO04.

  • Hall, K. 2000. Impacts of marine debris and oil: Economic and social costs to coastal communities-report published by Kommunenes Internasjonale Kommunenes Internasjonale Miljøorganisasjon (KIMO), c/o Shetland Islands Council, Environment and Transportation Department, Grantfield, Lerwick, Shetland, ZE1 0NT, ISBN 0904562891.

  • Hall, N.M., K.L.E. Berry, L. Rintoul, and M.O. Hoogenboom. 2015. Microplastic ingestion by scleractinian corals. Marine Biology 162: 725–732.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • IMO. 2015. International convention for the prevention of pollution from ships (MARPOL). Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

  • IMO. 2015. Prevention of pollution by garbage from ships. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

  • IMO. 2015. Status of conventions. Retrieved July 10, 2015 from

  • Jambeck, J.R., R. Geyer, C. Wilcox, T.R. Siegler, M. Perryman, A. Andrady, R. Narayan, and K.L. Law. 2015. Plastic waste inputs from land into the ocean. Science 347: 768–771.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Jones, M.M. 1995. Fishing debris in the Australian marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin 30: 25–33.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Katsanevakis, S. 2008. Marine debris, a growing problem: Sources, distribution, composition, and impacts. In Marine pollution: New research, ed. T.N. Hofer, 53–100. New York: Nova Science Publishers.

    Google Scholar 

  • Laist, D.W. 1997. Impacts of marine debris: Entanglement of marine life in marine debris including a comprehensive list of species with entanglement and ingestion records. In Marine debris sources, impacts, and solutions, ed. J.M. Coe, and D. Rogers, 81–97. New York: Springer.

    Google Scholar 

  • Leggett, C., N. Sherer, M. Curry, R. Bailey, and T. Haab. 2014. Assessing the economic benefits of reductions in marine debris: A pilot study of beach recreation in Orange County, California-report for marine debris division, national oceanic and atmospheric administration. Industrial Economics, Incorporated, Cambridge, MA, USA.

  • Macfadyen, G., T. Huntington, and R. Cappell. 2009. Abandoned, lost or otherwise discarded fishing gear. UNEP Regional Seas Reports and Studies No. 185; FAO Fisheries and Aquaculture Technical Paper, No. 523. Rome, UNEP/FAO.

  • Nash, A.D. 1992. Impacts of marine debris on subsistence fishermen: An exploratory study. Marine Pollution Bulletin 24: 150–156.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Øhlenschlæger, J.P., S. Newman, and A. Farmer. 2013. Reducing ship generated marine litter—recommendations to improve the EU port reception facilities directive-report produced for seas at risk. London: Institute for European Environmental Policy.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rochman, C.M., E. Hoh, T. Kurobe, and S.J. Teh. 2013. Ingested plastic transfers hazardous chemicals to fish and induces hepatic stress. Scientific Reports 3: 3263.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Rochman, C.M., T. Kurobe, I. Flores, and S.J. Teh. 2014. Early warning signs of endocrine disruption in adult fish from the ingestion of polyethylene with and without sorbed chemical pollutants from the marine environment. Science of the Total Environment 493: 656–661.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Romeo, T., B. Pietro, C. Peda, P. Consoli, F. Andaloro, and M.C. Fossi. 2015. First evidence of presence of plastic debris in stomach of large pelagic fish in the Mediterranean Sea. Marine Pollution Bulletin 95: 358–361.

    CAS  Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sagapolutele, F. 2015. FAD found at Fagaalu Bay destroyed fragile coral, Samoa News. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

  • Sherrington, C., C. Pitts-Tucker, and D. Hogg. 2014. Report II: Marine Debris and commercial vessel best practice-report for the secretariat of the convention on migratory species, 18th meeting of the scientific council, Bonn, Germany. Bristol: Eunomia Research & Consulting Ltd.

    Google Scholar 

  • Schlining, K., S. von Thun, L. Kuhnz, B. Schlining, L. Lundsten, N.J. Stout, L. Chaney, and J. Connor. 2013. Debris in the deep: Using a 22-year video annotation database to survey marine litter in Monterey Canyon, central California, USA. Deep Sea Research Part I: Oceanographic Research Papers 79: 96–105.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • SPC. 2010. Purse seine, tuna fisheries, oceanic fisheries programme. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

  • SPREP. 2014. World-first shipping plan to deliver cleaner oceans for the Pacific Region, Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environment Programme. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

  • UNEP. 2009. Marine litter: A global challenge. Nairobi: UNEP.

    Google Scholar 

  • UNEP. 2014. Valuing plastics: The business case for measuring, managing and disclosing plastic use in the consumer goods industry.

  • Van Cauwenberghe, L., and C.R. Janssen. 2014. Microplastics in bivalves cultured for human consumption. Environmental Pollution 193: 65–70.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Watkins E., P. ten Brink, S. Withana, K. Mutafoglu, J-P. Schweitzer, D. Russi, and M. Kettunen. 2015. Marine litter: Socio-economic study. Scoping Report, London.

  • WCPFC. 2009. Fisheries to be monitored-report for regional observer programme third intercessional working group, Guam, 17th to 21st March, 2009. WCPFC/ROP-IWG3/2009-08. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

  • WCPFC. 2010. Conservation and management measure to establish a list of vessels presumed to have carried out illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fishing activities in the WCPO-report for seventh regular session, Honolulu, Hawaii, USA, 6–10 December, 2010. Conservation and Management Measure 2010-06. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

  • WCPFC. 2014. Status of observer data management-report for technical and compliance committee tenth regular session, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia, 25–30 September, 2014. WCPFC-TCC10-2014-IP05. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

  • WCPFC. 2015. Tuna fishery yearbook 2014. Oceanic Fisheries programme, secretariat of the pacific community, Noumea, New Caledonia. Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission, Pohnpei, Federated States of Micronesia.

  • Winston, J.E., M.R. Gregory, and L.M. Stevens. 1997. Encrusters, epibionts, and other biota associated with pelagic plastics: A review of biogeographical, environmental and conservation issues. In Marine debris sources, impacts, and solutions, ed. J.M. Coe, and D. Rogers, 81–97. New York: Springer.

    Chapter  Google Scholar 

  • World Animal Protection. 2014. Fishing’s phantom menace: How ghost fishing gear is endangering our sea life. Retrieved July 6, 2015 from

  • Zettler, E.R., T.J. Mincer, and L.A. Amaral-Zettler. 2013. Life in the “Plastisphere”: Microbial communities on plastic marine debris. Environmental Science and Technology 47: 7137–7146.

    CAS  Google Scholar 

Download references


The authors would like to acknowledge the support, co-operation and communication of the Secretariat of the Pacific Community (SPC) and the Western and Central Pacific Fisheries Commission (WCPFC) in helping to better understand the nature of these pollution incidents and work towards achievable solutions to mitigate this problem.

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Kelsey Richardson.

Electronic supplementary material

Below is the link to the electronic supplementary material.

Appendix S1 (PDF 190 kb)

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Richardson, K., Haynes, D., Talouli, A. et al. Marine pollution originating from purse seine and longline fishing vessel operations in the Western and Central Pacific Ocean, 2003–2015. Ambio 46, 190–200 (2017).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Revised:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI:


  • Abandoned, lost or discarded fishing gear
  • Fisheries
  • Marine pollution
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Plastic pollution