The US National Marine Debris Monitoring Program is using indicator items from beach surveys to identify whether amounts of marine debris are changing over time. Indicator items were selected through expert opinion and assumed to reflect the trend of all debris. We used monthly data from a 1991-1996 study of debris on a New Jersey beach to determine if indicator and non-indicator items showed similar trends. Total indicator debris levels did not change; this was true regardless of probable source. Non-indicator debris increased about 40% annually. Plastic non-indicator items increased regardless of whether items were whole items, cigarette filters, or pieces. Of the whole items, almost 50% were plastic lids, cups, and utensils, and about 25% were drug-related paraphernalia, tobacco-related products, plastic stirrers, pull rings, and fireworks. When indicator items are used in a monitoring programme to reflect total debris patterns, concordance of trends in indicator and non-indicator debris should be checked.
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Use of indicator items to monitor marine debris on a New Jersey beach from 1991 to 1996