NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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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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NOAA MDP funds 11 community-based marine debris removal projects

By: NOAA Marine Debris Program staff

The NOAA Marine Debris Program awarded $1,275,000 through NOAA’s Restoration Center to groups across the country to support locally-driven, community-based marine debris prevention and removal projects. Eleven groups received funding to remove derelict vessels, trash, debris from natural disasters, derelict fishing gear, and other harmful marine debris from shorelines and coastal waters. Through this grant program, NOAA has funded 87 marine debris removal projects and removed more than 4,800 metric tons of marine debris from our oceans since 2006.

“We are proud to continue to support marine debris removal projects around the country. These organizations will work to address the damage marine debris causes and help improve important ecosystems.”  said Nancy Wallace, director of the Marine Debris Program.

The projects last for approximately 24 months and have long-lasting ecological benefits. This year’s projects were chosen from a pool of 42 applications submitted by non-governmental organizations, tribes, academia and local government agencies. The combined request from all applications totaled nearly $5 million, demonstrating the widespread need to address marine debris across the country.

Photos from previous removal projects:

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This year’s projects include:

Alaska: Continuation of Critical Habitat Restoration

The Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation will locate, remove, catalog, weigh, and dispose of an estimated 51.6 metric tons of marine debris in or adjacent to state and federal critical habitat areas in Alaska.

California: Tijuana River NERR Marine Debris Clean-up and Reduction Program

The Southwest Wetlands Interpretive Association will move debris from the Goat Canyon Sedimentation Basin to a landfill, using volunteers and youth corps members to remove trash from the Tijuana River watershed, repairing the debris basin trapping mechanisms, and educating students in Mexico about marine debris.

Florida: LagoonKeepers.org Environmental Action Initiative

Through this initiative, the Lake Worth Lagoon Environmental Defense Fund, Inc. will remove debris as small as single-use plastic bags and as large as sunken vessels. It is estimated that by removing these 31 vessels (17 sunken), it will account for 620,000 pounds of debris removed from the local marine environment. This will directly and immediately benefit local marine animal and plant species by allowing marine life a chance to recuperate from the debris impacts.

Hawai‘i: Inspiring Coastal Stewardship in Hawaii through Coastal Cleanups and Educational Outreach

Sustainable Coastlines, Hawaii will organize volunteer-driven beach cleanups on northeast Oahu to remove an estimated 5-10 tons of debris. They will also educate students and businesses within their communities.

New Jersey: Jamaica Bay Marine Debris Removal and Data-driven Prevention Pilot Project

Over a two year period, the American Littoral Society will remove 57.23 metric tons of debris from multiple sites in Jamaica Bay in New York City, including Dubos Point Wildlife Sanctuary.

New York: Long Island Sound Deep Water Derelict Lobster Gear Assessment, Removal and Prevention

Cornell University Cooperative Extension of Suffolk County (CCE) will assess the extent and distribution of derelict lobster gear and the condition of lobsters and other unintentionally ensnared wildlife in the Long Island Sound. CCE will employ active commercial lobstermen to remove derelict gear. When possible, intact and identifiable gear will be returned to the original owner while unsalvageable gear will be recycled at a waste-to-energy facility or metals recycler.

Michigan: A Better Belle Isle: Marine Debris Removal and Prevention

The Alliance for the Great Lakes and partners aim to remove 250 tons of debris and naturalize and stabilize 150 linear feet of shoreline and coastal wetland using native plants and natural rock on Belle Isle in Michigan.

South Carolina: Using Community-Based Initiatives for Marine Debris Removal and Restoration of Essential Fish Habitats in the Charleston Harbor Watershed

South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium’s project will remove thirteen derelict vessels weighing approximately 22-26 tons from the Charleston Harbor watershed, improving both the safety of navigable waterways and the health of essential fish habitat. In addition, approximately 15 tons of marine debris (primarily unwanted fishing gear) will be collected and disposed of during three county-wide Clean Marine events that will provide opportunities for individuals to dispose of unwanted fishing and boating gear.

US Virgin Islands : Removal of Marine Debris from shorelines and shallow mangrove and seagrass habitat with accompanying community education and outreach program

The Coral Bay Community Council, Inc. (CBCC) will remove 6-12 derelict vessels weighing about 12 metric tons that have been grounded, beached or sunk in the mangroves of Coral Harbor in St. John, U.S. Virgin Islands. Removal of these vessels will reduce the number of hazards within shallow water and protect the often battered mangroves and abraded seagrass. Volunteers will assist in shoreline and mangrove clean-up efforts to remove an additional metric ton of debris. CBCC will develop a marine debris reduction and monitoring program, place a dumpster and recycling bins near the dock, and implement public outreach to encourage reduction in marine debris pollution.

Washington: Student Conservation Association NOAA Community-based Marine Debris Removal Project

The Student Conservation Association, Inc. (SCA) and partners will work with community volunteers to educate local residents about their coastline and will remove an anticipated 560 tons of marine debris.

Washington: Washington Derelict Gear Removal Project

The Nature Conservancy will remove derelict crab pots from 155 square miles of habitat within and outside the Quinault Indian Nation Special Management Area. This work will build on knowledge gained from previous NOAA-funded Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife removal efforts and use new locally-piloted removal techniques.

NOAA’s Restoration Center is now accepting applications for the next funding cycle. Applications are due November 17, 2014. For more information, visit:  http://www.grants.gov/web/grants/view-opportunity.html?oppId=265368


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New York State Removing Sandy Marine Debris from 10 Sites

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 the coastal waters and marshes. This summer, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, impacted states have started to clean up more of what remains.

While a great deal of marine debris has already been removed, there is still some in particularly in hard-to-reach or less trafficked areas. The debris behind sand dunes and in wetlands, marshes, and tidal creeks poses hazards to safety, navigation, fishing grounds, and sensitive ecosystems. A great deal of the debris is structural, including docks and decks from houses. There are also derelict vessels, lumber, and household items.

Following the disaster, NOAA’s Marine Debris Program worked with the states to determine where additional marine debris removal was needed. NOAA established a formal agreement with the New York State Office of Parks, Recreation, and Historic Preservation that enables debris cleanup at 10 sites, including nine waterfront state parks on Long Island.

Led by Parks’ Regional Environmental Manager Annie McIntyre, the project involves manual removal of construction debris, broken docks, timber, and other miscellaneous items. In many cases, the debris is located hundreds of yards from shore in back dunes, landward edges of marshes, and along tree and shrub lines—demonstrating the magnitude of Sandy’s storm surge. “The winter after Sandy, we were walking along the beaches and we saw lots and lots of debris way back in the bushes,” explained McIntyre. “We knew that we were never going to have the time or manpower to get to them, so when this program became available, I was really excited. It’s a tremendous opportunity to get this debris out of the ecosystem.”

Cleanup at the state parks is now underway. Since June, seasonal employees have been at work, withstanding summer heat, high vegetation, and biting insects while removing tons of debris. The crew consists of current college students or recent graduates. Many were on Long Island when Sandy came ashore.

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The storm’s impact is still being discovered. “What surprised me most is actually how much is still out here, almost a couple years after Sandy,” said team member Maryellen Costantino. “It’s interesting to see how badly some places got hit and how far the water came inland.” Coworker Joe Squeglia agreed: “There’s so much debris out here—little things, big things, refrigerators, boats, little plastic pieces. It’s really shocking how much is out in the environment.”

The crew is doing its part to reduce that amount. They removed more than two tons of debris from Jones Beach State Park alone, with more still to be recovered. Work at all park sites will end this fall.

The NOAA-New York agreement also will allow for debris removal at a tidal wetland located in the Long Island Town of Hempstead and managed by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation. Work at that site will begin in fall 2014.

In addition to New York State, NOAA has reached formal agreements with Rhode Island, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New York City. Those projects will be highlighted in future posts.


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Oregon Sea Grant Releases New Video: Responding to the Risks of Marine Debris

By: Nir Barnea

The March 11, 2011 earthquake and tsunami that devastated Japan claimed nearly 19,000 human lives, injured more than 6,000 people, and destroyed and damaged countless buildings. As a result of the tsunami, a portion of the debris that washed into the ocean has reached U.S. and Canadian shores, a process that will continue over the next several years.

Three and a half years after the tragic disaster, much has been done to study the Japan tsunami marine debris transport, deposition, and impact. Oregon Sea Grant, in collaboration with its partners, produced a video to present several aspects of addressing the Japan tsunami marine debris, including: the assessment and removal of invasive species that arrived from Japan on tsunami debris, a collaborative effort with a group from Japan to clean up marine debris from an Oregon beach and identify its sources, a shoreline survey to study deposition of marine debris, and an overall perspective of the Japan tsunami marine debris in the greater context of marine debris in the world ocean.

Click HERE to read the Sea Grant Blog and watch the video.


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10 Marine Debris Prevention Partnerships Launched

By: NOAA Marine Debris Program staff

For the past year, our education and outreach partners across the country have inspired thousands of people of all ages to be better ocean stewards. They have carried the message that prevention is key to solving the marine debris problem, through projects such as museum exhibits, curriculum development, marine debris challenges and informal curriculumoutreach to teens, teacher workshops, dockside education, hands-on cleanups and science for children.

This year, 10 additional groups across the country received funding through the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Prevention through Education and Outreach opportunity to partner with us on new initiatives. The MDP has provided $500,000 to launch partnership projects ranging from education for fishers to social marketing and awareness campaigns. They are:

University of South Florida, through its Clean Community-Clean Coast education and outreach campaign, will develop a program to engage, educate, and inspire 3,000+ youth, 500 educators, and the general public in the Tampa Bay region. The project team will raise awareness on marine debris through information exchange, hands-on activities, and messaging that resonates with middle and high school students and addresses social norms associated with effective litter prevention. Students will work with artists to create a large scale public art sculpture made of marine debris and engage in peer-to-peer outreach using the project’s social media tools.

Protectores de Cuencas, Inc is launching Think Before You Drop It,  a research-based social marketing campaign that will reduce litter in nine beaches in Guánica/Río Loco Watershed, Puerto Rico. During community clean-ups, a team will gather information about marine debris and conduct surveys to collect sociological and demographic data from participants. The results will facilitate creation of a strategic campaign, including workshops, school presentations, outreach events, Public Service Announcements, and contests for reducing marine debris at the beaches.

Alice Ferguson Foundation will deploy marine debris prevention strategies and messaging that targets youth and teenage litterers living in communities and attending schools in Prince George’s County, Maryland; Prince William County, Virginia; and Washington D.C. through community-based outreach to youth organizations and the Trash Free Schools Project. The goal is to reduce the amount of land-based litter that enters the Potomac River and ultimately becomes marine debris in the Chesapeake Bay and Atlantic Ocean.

Virginia Department of Environmental Quality will use a social marketing approach to reduce a deadly and common source of marine debris: balloons and their attachments (often made of non-biodegradable plastics). Through formative research—interviews, focus groups and surveys—project staff will determine the underlying drivers of mass balloon release behavior.  Project staff will then design and test a social marketing strategy to promote alternative ways of commemorating important events and reduce the amount of balloon debris.

Feiro Marine Life Center and Washington CoastSavers will launch an awareness campaign, Education and Action: A One-Two Punch for Reducing Marine Debris on the Washington Coast, to prevent ocean litter through hands-on education activities with elementary students and coastal communities. More than 1,000 elementary school students from Washington State’s Olympic Peninsula will learn about marine debris impacts to coastal ecosystems through classroom activities, field studies at a local beach, and a visit to an aquarium. During the campaign, students and their communities will develop a long-term relationship with their local beach by collecting baseline debris data, monitoring, and participating in beach cleanups.

Hawai’i Wildlife Fund will use education both inside and outside the classroom as a means to engage and inspire the keiki (children) of Hawai’i to reduce their local marine debris footprint.  The hands-on, locally relevant activities will provide the building blocks and tools needed to spark a positive change for these youngsters, starting with their own daily choices at home and at school, leading to community and family involvement.

Artula Institute for Arts and Environmental Education will use the powerful Washed Ashore art exhibits and educational curriculum to influence behavior change.  Washed Ashore will partner with museums and aquariums to develop and distribute Create Don’t Waste educational materials for presentation and distribution at all Washed Ashore exhibit locations that focus on action-oriented, tangible ways to change individual and community behaviors. Washed Ashore will also provide exemplar marine debris curriculum free-of-charge to teachers at exhibit locations.

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History will take a three-pronged approach to tackle debris prevention in Santa Barbara County, California. The first component, Marine Debris, the Ocean, & Me is aimed at local elementary students through the Museum and the Ty Warner Sea Center and connects student’s daily consumer choices to debris found in the ocean. The second component, The Quasar to Sea Stars Classroom Education, Outreach will teach teens at local high schools and middle schools about marine debris impacts on the environment; and the final prong, Marine Debris Community Outreach will educate the general public, such as local residents, tourists, and specifically beach goers, on debris types found at local beaches and provide prevention tips to promote environmentally-conscious consumer choices.

Salem Sound Coastwatch will launch a community-based campaign, Talking Trash for Clean Oceans,  to mitigate marine debris originating in the coastal city of Salem, Massachusetts. Focusing on the low-income neighborhoods, this program will raise awareness and change behaviors in neighborhoods that are primarily Hispanic by implementing leadership programs for students and providing toolkits to local schools.

Wisconsin Sea Grant and its partners will address the growing derelict fishing gear issue in Lake Superior by hosting workshops for new commercial and tribal fishers, as well as the public, to encourage changes in behavior that prevent this debris from entering the water. They will also create a web portal where the public can report derelict gear and download outreach materials and videos.

We look forward to working with all of our partners over the next year on these new initiatives! Stay tuned to http://www.marinedebris.noaa.gov for updates.


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New economic study shows marine debris costs California residents millions of dollars

By: NOAA Marine Debris Program staff

Southern California residents lose millions of dollars each year avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away and may cost more to reach, according to a new NOAA-funded Marine Debris Program economics study.

Reducing marine debris even by 25 percent at beaches in and near California’s Orange County could save residents roughly $32 million during three months in the summer by not having to travel longer distances to other beaches.

The study, led by Industrial Economics Inc., known as IEc, is the first of its kind to look at how marine debris influences decisions to go to the beach and what it may cost. Given the enormous popularity of beach recreation throughout the United States, the magnitude of recreational economic losses associated with marine debris has the potential to be substantial.

We found that:

  • Orange County residents are concerned about marine debris, and it significantly influences their decisions to go to the beach. No marine debris on the beach and good water quality are the two most important beach characteristics to them.
  • Avoiding littered beaches costs Orange County residents millions of dollars each year.
  • Reducing marine debris on beaches can prevent financial loss and provide economic benefits to residents.

For more information and to download the study, please visit our website. 

Which beach characteristics are important to OC residents, by percent. MD-econ_graphic1__large

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