The Integrated Marine Debris Observing System (IMDOS) aims to support the development of a global interoperable marine debris/litter monitoring system to benefit the research community, as well as policy- and decision-making bodies and the private sector. 

By providing guidance on harmonizing data, standardizing monitoring methods, leveraging technology, and harnessing the power of a global community, IMDOS aims to support and strengthen a network of sustained observations to enhance marine debris research and to inform actions to tackle the growing global plastic pollution problem.


IMDOS will allow data from multiple sources to be interoperable, comparable, and accessible.  


Global marine debris integrated monitoring is essential to provide reliable data to further our baseline knowledge of marine debris pollution on national, regional, and global levels, which is critical to establish and evaluate effective policies and mitigation plans. 


IMDOS will coordinate activities to gradually increase the readiness level of the observing system and data management, aiming for operational capacity by 2030. To achieve this aim, the following objectives have been set up, which will be elaborated further with an implementation plan:

Engagement and Coordination

  1. Advocate for the transition to a long-term, coordinated, global marine debris (MD) observing system.
  2. Discover and engage with existing and proposed MD monitoring, remote sensing, and numerical modelling initiatives to propose coordination under a common framework.
  3. Foster communication and synergies within the expanding MD community, and with researchers and decision-makers.
  4. Advise on the development of MD information products for assessment reports for all stakeholders. 

Expertise and Guidance

  • Provide recommendations on the design and evolution of a global MD observing system.  
  • Give guidance on assessment and harmonization of MD monitoring methodologies. 
  • Promote guidelines for harmonization, standardization, and quality control of MD data towards federated and interoperable data management systems.
  • Ensure open access MD data following the Findability, Accessibility, Interoperability, and Reuse (FAIR) principles. 

System Integration

  1. Enhance synergies between in-situ and remote sensing MD observing components for their integration through compatibility and complementarity.
  2. Integrate the modelling and observing MD capabilities to enable the development of interactive virtual representations (digital twins) and observing system design.
  3. Integrate citizen science and innovative MD observing initiatives. 
  4. Support technological advancements and innovations to increase technical readiness levels of all MD observing elements. 

From vision to practice


Since 2019, we have been gradually moving IMDOS from an ambitious community vision to implementation. Formally launched during a dedicated side event during the UN Ocean Conference in Lisbon in June 2022, IMDOS is a joint initiative of GOOS, GEO Blue Planet and UNEP GPML. Through this unique strategic partnership, IMDOS is well placed to fill to the void for a technical coordination body to support global marine litter monitoring.


IMDOS has an international Interim Steering Committee, its provisional Terms of Reference and a distributed Coordination and Communication Office with up to 5 staff members working partially.

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