Priorities to inform research on marine plastic pollution in Southeast Asia

The marine plastic pollution levels in Southeast Asia are among the highest in the world. To develop mitigation measures in the region, we must increase our understanding of the impacts and risks of plastic pollution on marine ecosystems and their essential functions. In a collaborative effort, an interdisciplinary, international group of experts from Australia, Indonesia, Ireland, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, the United Kingdom, and Vietnam developed a research agenda for marine plastic pollution in Southeast Asia, synthesised current knowledge and identified areas for further research. The inductive method was used to identify 21 research questions under five nonpredefined key themes, which were grouped according to the following: (1) describe marine plastic pollution in Southeast Asia; (2) analyze its movement and fate in the region; (3) describe the biological and chemical modifications marine plastic pollution undergoes; (4) describe its economic, social, and environmental impacts; and (5) identify possible solutions for regional policies. These research priority areas highlight the importance of better understanding the fate and degradation of marine plastic pollution, as well as the impacts and risks it may pose to communities and ecosystems. Having a thorough understanding of these aspects will assist in supporting actions that are currently hindered by transborder problems, a lack of responsibility, and inaction to tackle the issue at its source within the region. As a profoundly affected region by marine plastic pollution, Southeast Asian countries provide a unique opportunity to evaluate the effectiveness of both high-tech and low-tech solutions, and to share insights and actionable models with the rest of the world concerning innovative and socially inclusive changes in marine plastic governance.

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