NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!


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We Are Thankful for Our Partners

By: Marine Debris Program Staff

In honor of the Thanksgiving holiday, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is taking time to remember a few things for which we are thankful. One in particular is our partners, with their help we were able to make real progress in our efforts to address marine debris this year.

With our partners, the NOAA Marine Debris Program removed 247,188 pounds of debris

and reached over 12,628 students and 168 educators through education and outreach projects.

And with their help, we will continue to research, prevent, and reduce the impacts of marine debris.
Thank you!


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Disbanding the Oregon Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Task Force

A dock that came ashore on Agate Beach in Oregon was confirmed to be one of four docks that swept away from Japan's coastline after the devastating March 2011 tsunami.

A dock that came ashore on Agate Beach in Oregon was confirmed to be one of four docks that swept away from Japan’s coastline after the devastating March 2011 tsunami.

On October 29th, 2014, the Oregon Japan Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD) Task Force met for the last time, reviewed past and present JTMD activities, and disbanded. The end of the Task Force’s service is a good example of how a task force can come together and then dissolve to focus on other pressing regional priorities. It’s also an indication that Japan tsunami marine debris, which was front and center of public and media attention two years ago, has now diminished. JTMD will continue to be researched and studied but it has always been part of the larger and persistent marine debris problem that impacts the world’s oceans.

The “Oregon JTMD Task Force” was established shortly after the floating dock from Misawa, identified as Japan tsunami marine debris, landed on Agate beach, near Newport, Oregon. Task Force members included representatives from state, federal, and local agencies, NGOs and academia. They collaborated closely over the last two and a half years to address JTMD. They drafted the Oregon JTMD Plan and conducted public meetings to introduce it. As funding to address JTMD became available from NOAA and through a generous gift from the Government of Japan, the Task Force put it to good use. The Task Force met periodically to provide updates and discuss JTMD issues, and its members have collaborated to study invasive species found on JTMD, and remove JTMD items, big and small, from the Oregon coast, with the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers.

Recently, the Government of Japan confirmed this blue box that came ashore in Lakewood, Oregion to be JTMD.

Recently, the Government of Japan confirmed this blue box that came ashore in Lakewood, Oregion to be JTMD.

It is telling that a week prior to the Task Force’s last meeting, a large blue plastic box was found near Lakewood, Oregon, a box that has since been confirmed by the Government of Japan as having washed out from Fudai Village in Iwate Prefecture during the tsunami. More JTMD, mixed with other marine debris from places near and far, will surely come ashore in the months and even years to come, but the entities that were part of the Oregon JTMD Task Force now benefit from the experience gained, the response plan created, the lessons learned, and the on-going collaboration of all involved, and be well prepared to handle whatever washes ashore.


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Let’s Celebrate America Recycles Day this Saturday

By: NOAA Marine Debris Program staff
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America Recycles Day is coming! On Saturday, November 15, Keep America Beautiful (KAB) asks that you ‘Snap a selfie while recycling’ and use #RecyclingSelfie when sharing on social media.

With KAB’s national initiative America Recycles Day just around the corner, we at the NOAA Marine Debris Program want to remind everyone to how important it is to recycle. Many local municipalities support proper waste management, and through recycling, we can keep much of our waste out of the ocean. Remember to check your local options for recycling, and then commit to it!

For example, at the NOAA MDP’s home base in Montgomery County, Maryland, there’s a great database for closing the loop, called “Use It Again.” Here, one can search for local businesses and organizations that help in renting, repairing, donating or selling used items. And for quick and easy reference in what to toss in your home curbside bins, use the “Top 10 in the Bin.”

Find your own recycling contribution and join the #AmericaRecyclesDay conversation.


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9th Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit

By: NOAA Marine Debris Program staff

On November 7, the Alice Ferguson Foundation, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, hosted The 9th Annual Potomac Watershed Trash Summit.

Nancy Wallace, Director of the Marine Debris Program (MDP) at NOAA, provided this year’s opening remarks, championing local solutions to the global issue of marine debris and urging attendees to pledge to make at least one small change in their lives to help keep trash out of our Potomac River, and our ocean.

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In addition, Jason Rolfe, the program’s Mid-Atlantic and Caribbean Regional Coordinator, moderated discussions on how public and private sector partnerships can bolster existing efforts to eliminate litter. These sessions resulted in concrete actions the working group will take to strengthen those connections. MDP also hosted a table to answer questions and inform attendees curious or unfamiliar with the topic of marine debris. Everyone seemed excited to share the ‘Keep the Sea Free of Debris’ message.

Additional speakers and attendees included representatives of the Environmental Protection Agency, National Park Service, Washington, DC’s Department of the Environment, Prince George’s County Department of the Environment, Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments, Local businesses and nonprofits. Jim Dinegar, the President and Chief Executive officer of the Greater Washington Board of Trade, closed the Trash Summit with a compelling Keynote speech about the Greater Washington Area and the connections forged between economic prosperity and the pursuit of greener industry.

Throughout the Trash Summit, participants were urged to make personal pledges with their working group and leave those discussions armed with additional knowledge on how to better implement those changes. The Trash Summit organizers collected the pledges made and will follow up directly with those individuals or with a group lead for that session.

Please save the date for the Annual Potomac River Watershed Cleanup  April 11, 2015!

In 2014, 14,716 volunteers removed 288 tons trash and debris from the region at 670 cleanup sites throughout Washington, D.C., Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania and West Virginia. Help AFF and many others break new records next year!


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Future Ocean Stewards Take the Trash Out

By: Grace Chon

As the new Marine Debris Pacific Islands Regional Assistant Coordinator, I bring the world of marine debris into classrooms to create a new awareness of how our lifestyles impact the ocean. This month, my journey started with first through fifth graders at the American Renaissance Academy and first graders at Trinity Christian School on Oahu, Hawai‘i.

The first question I asked each class was “What comes to mind when you think of the ocean?” and many students responded saying fish, honu (turtles), sharks, surfing, and fun! There is no doubt children in Hawai‘i like the ocean. I then asked,“How have humans impacted or affected the ocean?” and these children knew trash and nets were in the ocean and harming our wildlife. The missing link for these students is usually realizing the source of the trash – us.

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A mauka to makai (mountains to sea) connection is a common theme in Hawai‘i when teaching about our environment, and after hearing the presentation, students were able to see how their trash can end up in the ocean. They learned their everyday choices make a difference.

After the presentation, the students did several hands-on activities to help them better understand the problems marine debris creates. They pretended to be seals entangled in fishing nets and had to find a way to get free; used sieves to sift out microplastics from sand; explored the collection of marine debris we find on removal missions in Hawai‘i; and made marine debris magnets to remind them of how the daily choices they make impact our ocean.

Educating our next generation of ocean stewards is part of Hawaii’s Marine Debris Action Plan, and it’s an important piece to solving one of the biggest threats our oceans are facing today.


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The Final Count: 57 Tons of Marine Debris Now Out of the Monument

Two Marine Debris Program staffers are participating in NOAA’s annual mission to remove derelict nets and other marine debris from sensitive coral reefs and shorelines in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, one of the largest marine conservation areas in the world. An estimated 52 tons of derelict fishing gear washes up in the Monument each year, threatening the pristine ecosystem. Follow their journey.

By: Dianna Parker

Mission Log 10

We’re back on dry land after concluding our 33-day mission to remove marine debris from the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument in Hawaii. The grand total of derelict fishing nets and plastics we recovered – after everything was weighed and counted – was 57 tons. We even removed an 11.5-ton “super net” from Pearl and Hermes Atoll that took several days to cut apart and pull out of the water.

Here are a few additional photos from the mission:

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I’ll be answering questions about the mission from 1-3 p.m. EST (5 pm UTC, 10 am PST)  in a Reddit Ask Me Anything today. Feel free to participate!


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A Better Belle Isle

By: Sarah Lowe (Opfer)

A portion of shoreline on Belle Isle, Michigan is now free of marine debris!  In 2012, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provided funding to the Alliance for the Great Lakes to tackle the problem of marine debris on this historic island.

Throughout the past two years, the project team has been busy on four different project components.  The removal project helped clean up 200 metric tons of debris, which included concrete slabs, rebar, and other metal debris.

The project enlisted the help of 514 volunteers representing 13 different groups to participate in the Alliance’s Adopt-a-Beach™ program to remove and record litter from the Belle Isle shoreline. Volunteers spent 2,170 hours of service and removed 4,563.5 pounds of debris.

Belle Isle is a popular recreational area for Detroit, Michigan.  It is the largest city-owned island park in the United States, and is currently leased to the state of Michigan.  This allowed for some unique education and outreach opportunities in partnership with the Belle Isle Nature Zoo and other groups on the island.  The Boat US Foundation donated five monofilament fishing line recycling bins. The bins were installed at various fishing piers and other popular fishing spots around the island.  Volunteers from Go Lightly Career and Tech Center visited the bins monthly to record the amount of fishing line collected in the bins for a total of 55 entries to the BoatUS Foundation database.

Beyond the bins, the Alliance worked with the Belle Isle Nature Zoo to also develop an educational mobile display to educate zoo-goers about the recycling project on the island and to stress the problem with fishing line and trash left in the Great Lakes environment. Recently the Nature Zoo used it at a special youth day in Detroit on July 11 reaching an estimated that 1,500 students.  The Nature Zoo itself hosts more than 60,000 visitors a year.

Belle Isle mobile education display

Belle Isle mobile education display

While marine debris removal projects have obvious benefits to habitat, many of our funded projects like Belle Isle, reach beyond their footprint to make a difference in the community and to educate others on the impacts of marine debris.

“It’s one of the most productive partnerships that I can think of. Working together, the impact we have made on teachers, students and the community really is priceless. It’s immeasurable,” said Belle Isle Nature Zoo’s Mike Reed.

The project team successfully secured funds to continue the work to make a “Better Belle Isle.” Learn more about NOAA Marine Debris Program’s removal funding opportunity here.

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