Date of Award

Spring 2024

Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


School of Public Service


Public Administration and Policy

Committee Director

Juita-Elena Yusuf

Committee Member

Jennifer Whytlaw

Committee Member

Marina Saitgalina


Marine debris is a wicked problem and there is a call for action for stakeholders from across multiple sectors to address this issue in Virginia. Marine debris can have negative impacts on navigation, aquatic life, recreation, and economies. Research is rapidly growing on ocean debris, but so far, it is limited regarding estuarine river debris in an industrial port and harbor. River systems function as pathways to the sea for the transport of plastic pollution that can be detrimental due to animal ingestion, entanglement, and accumulation. Views and policies about marine debris removal are unknown among stakeholders of Virginia’s Elizabeth River, home to the world’s largest naval base and a world-class port. The Elizabeth River was previously identified as one of three most toxic tributaries in the Chesapeake Bay, and it has the highest sea level rise on the east coast of the United States. During flood episodes and waves generated by ships, macro plastics (> 25mm) can remobilize and travel from the river to the bay and to the ocean. To gain a deep understanding of the complexity of the Elizabeth River’s marine debris problem, a qualitative case study was implemented and included in-depth interviews and a content analysis. This research contributed to the literature on Narrative Policy Framework (NPF) illustrating the value of qualitative studies in the policy process and how stakeholders from multiple sectors use narratives to tell the story of marine debris in the Elizabeth River. Thirty-one stakeholders from nine sectors participated; the stakeholders included representatives from the government, public, private, nonprofit, military, resident, academic, volunteer and fisher sectors. This study answered: 1.) What are the views of stakeholders from multiple sectors on the marine debris problems at the mouth of the Elizabeth River? 2.) Which stakeholders are considered in addressing marine debris issues? and 3.) What is the match between the views of stakeholders’ and policies to address marine debris?


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