NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Now Open: FY15 Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant Opportunity

By: Marine Debris Program staff

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to announce our annual “Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach” Federal Funding Opportunity.

The NOAA MDP seeks to fund projects that will lead to the prevention of marine debris in marine and coastal environments through the implementation of dedicated education and outreach activities. Projects awarded through this grant competition are expected to educate the public about marine debris through proposals including, but not limited to:

  1. encouraging changes in behavior to reduce and address marine debris;
  2. developing and implementing activities to reduce and prevent marine debris working with students, teachers, industries, and the public, and,
  3. engaging the public in active, personal participation (e.g. a small-scale shoreline cleanup with students or other hands-on activities, etc.).


Typical project awards will range from $30,000 – $75,000. NOAA will NOT accept proposals with a budget less than $15,000 or more than $100,000 under this solicitation. The anticipated number of awards ranges from five to twelve.

Eligible applicants include: U.S. institutions of higher education, non-profit organizations, commercial (for-profit) organizations, and state, local and tribal governments. Applications from federal agencies or employees of federal agencies will not be considered. International organizations are not eligible.

To download the official Federal Funding Opportunity along with complete eligibility requirements, please visit Grants Online by clicking here:

The deadline for applications to this funding opportunity is 11:59:59 pm EST on January 15, 2015. Applications must be submitted online via

For further guidance and applicant assistance with this Federal Funding Opportunity, visit our MDP Funding: Applicant and Grantee Resources Page:

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Post Storm Sandy – 270 tons of debris removed from New Jersey

By: Ron Ohrel

The 2012 storm known as Sandy inflicted severe damage to communities over large areas of the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, leaving a swath of destruction and large amounts of debris in coastal waters and marshes. While the majority of debris was removed in the storm’s immediate aftermath, Sandy-caused debris still remained—particularly in marshes, wetlands, tidal creeks, and other sparsely populated or difficult to access areas. That remaining debris continued to pose hazards to safety, navigation, fishing grounds, and sensitive ecosystems.

The Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013 provided NOAA with supplemental funding to support the removal of debris generated by Sandy. This allowed NOAA’s Marine Debris Program (MDP) to partner with the New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) to remove derelict vessels and other large debris items from the state’s waterways.

MDP and DEP established a formal agreement providing $454,000 to DEP in May 2014. Debris removal started in July and by the project’s conclusion in late September, DEP contractors had removed 270 tons of debris from eight different locations (see map and NOAA’s Environmental Response Management Application (ERMA); click the Legend tab on ERMA to view site-specific details). The removed marine debris consisted of docks, construction-related items, and several boats ranging from 14 to 55 feet long. Project work involved manual and mechanized removal of debris from tidal estuary, salt marsh, and forested wetland habitats.

New Jersey marine debris removal project sites and amounts

New Jersey marine debris removal project sites and amounts

In addition to New Jersey, NOAA has agreements with the states of New York, Rhode Island, Connecticut, and New Jersey, as well as New York City. Those projects are underway and will be highlighted in future posts.

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How Does Marine Debris Impact Corals?

By: Dianna Parker



It’s Corals Week at NOAA’s National Ocean Service, so we thought we’d take a moment to examine the impact marine debris has on these amazing species. (Did you know corals are animals?)

Corals are more than just a pretty aesthetic – they have real value. An incredible amount of marine life depends on healthy coral reef ecosystems, from algae to apex-predator sharks. We need them, too, for a variety of reasons:

“Healthy coral reefs are among the most biologically diverse and economically valuable ecosystems on earth, providing valuable and vital ecosystem services. Coral ecosystems are a source of food for millions; protect coastlines from storms and erosion; provide habitat, spawning and nursery grounds for economically important fish species; provide jobs and income to local economies from fishing, recreation, and tourism; are a source of new medicines, and are hotspots of marine biodiversity. They also are of great cultural importance in many regions around the world, particularly Polynesia.”

Marine debris, especially large and heavy debris, can crush and damage coral. In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which has one of the healthiest and least disturbed coral reef ecosystems in the United States, an estimated 52 tons of derelict fishing nets accumulate every year. The nets that drift there can be enormous, and when tangled together, weigh hundreds of pounds. These net conglomerates are sometimes described as giant “purses” – they roll across the large reef structures, snagging on corals, breaking them, and collecting them within the tangle. The added coral heads can make the nets heavier than when they started. Once the nets settle, they smother and scour the substrate underneath, impeding growth.

It’s not just nets that are a problem for coral. Other larger items such as tires, shipping containers, and derelict fishing traps are also the culprits behind coral damage.

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Even our smaller, everyday litter items can make their way there and degrade the habitat. As our friends at Flower Garden Banks National Marine Sanctuary asked, do fish even like root beer?


A root beer can rests on coral.


If you are a commercial or recreational fisher, you can help corals out by disposing of your unwanted fishing gear through programs such as Fishing for Energy. Everyone can refocus on proper waste disposal, too. If we reuse more, recycle more, and waste less, the amount of our trash making it to precious coral reefs will also decrease. Trash isn’t limited to just bottles and cans – bigger items such as tires and laundry baskets need careful consideration for disposal when we are through with them.

This Corals Week, whether you’re a diver, snorkeler, or admirer from afar, or let’s take a moment to appreciate all the beauty and value these incredible corals have to offer.

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Tips for a Marine Debris-Free Thanksgiving Dinner

By: Marine Debris Program staff

Cartoon turkeyThanksgiving dinners come in all shapes and sizes – from small “Friendsgiving” get-togethers to large rambunctious family affairs. No matter what you’re doing this year, the amount of trash you’re left with at the end will likely be more than usual. According to the EPA, the volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day – about 1 million extra tons.

Some of that waste will undoubtedly become marine debris. We in the Marine Debris Program are so thankful for our ocean (and our partners), and we hope you are too, so here are a few tips you can use to reduce waste and marine debris from your Thanksgiving dinner:

  • Take reusable shopping bags to pick up ingredients for your dinner.
  • Consider getting bulk ingredients or those that use minimal packaging.
  • Use reusable dishes – plates, utensils, and cups.
  • If your guest list is bigger than your dish collection and you must use disposables, look for items that can be recycled at your curbside.
  • Have a clearly marked recycling bin for your guests. There’s nothing worse than seeing plastic bottles in the trash!

Happy eating and Happy Thanksgiving!


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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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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NOAA Marine Debris Program Releases 2014 Accomplishments Report

By: Nancy Wallace

2014 was a ground breaking year for our program. We paved the way in the marine debris field by releasing a first of its kind economic study that assessed how litter affects beachgoers’ economic welfare and publishing marine debris science papers summarizing the issues of entanglement and ingestion. Looking to the future, this research will help us grasp a better understanding of marine debris impacts to our economy and our oceans.

As we forged forward with new science, we also continued the important work of removing debris from our oceans and cultivating future environmental stewards through education and outreach. This year, we reached 12,628 students and 168 teachers through hands-on education and outreach. We also continued our efforts to clean up and remove disaster debris from Superstorm Sandy and the 2011 tsunami that struck Japan. There is no doubt that more severe storm events are in our future. These events will leave behind significant amounts of debris, and in our new response role, we are working with states across the nation to strengthen our coastal resilience through regional planning.

I am excited to build on the momentum we created into this new fiscal year as we launch partnerships across the country and continue to address and remove marine debris from our oceans. I am honored to work with a dedicated staff and a passionate community that eagerly wants to keep marine debris out of our oceans and Great Lakes. With great excitement, I present our 2014 Accomplishments Report, which highlights some of our major achievements over the past fiscal year.


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