Towards a plastic pollution free Galapagos: Beaching variability of marine debris near the archipelago

, Ypma Stefanie, Van Sebille Erik, Jones Jen, Donnelly Andy.

The Galapagos Archipelago and the Galapagos Marine Reserve host one of the world's most unique ecosystems. Although being a UNESCO world heritage site and being isolated from any dense population, over 8 tonnes of plastic are collected on the islands each year. To decrease the impact of plastic waste in the region, scientific evidence is needed on the sources and fate of the marine plastic. In order to do so, we combine hydrodynamic fields from ocean-, wave-, wind- and tide-models using the OceanParcels particle tracking framework to track virtual particles through the marine reserve. First results using this method indicate that non-local sources of plastics that reach the Galapagos Islands are likely specific areas along the mainland of South America and international fishing operations outside the Ecuadorian border of the Galapagos Marine Reserve. In addition, a beaching parameterization has been developed to quantify where and when virtual particles wash ashore. We will present composite analyses of pathways of virtual particles, beaching events and the connectivity between the different islands. These results show that the particle pathways and beaching strongly depend on the dry and wet seasons characteristic for the Galapagos Islands. This work, in combination with a growing observational data set, will form the basis of a predictive model that will support the Galapagos National Park in their efforts to free the Galapagos Archipelago from marine debris.

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