NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Removing Debris with Surfrider in Kaua‘i

By: Mark Manuel, Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator for the Marine Debris Program

Kaua‘i’s eastern coastline offers beautiful white sand beaches with a wide variety of activities for locals and visitors alike. However, due to the regional northeast trade winds, these beaches are also severely impacted by marine debris. Fortunately, the Surfrider Organization Kaua‘i Chapter (Surfrider) has been combating the inevitable flux of marine debris arriving to this coastline since 2007.

To manage this issue, Surfrider conducts weekly “net patrols,” where volunteers traverse miles of beaches, removing large debris items ranging from conglomerates of fishing nets, gas cylinders, tires, and even the occasional derelict vessel.  The core group of Surfrider volunteers also organizes monthly community beach cleanups to educate the public through hands-on removal activities. This past year, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) partnered with Surfrider to support these removal efforts from June 2015 to June 2016, funded through collaboration with the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation.

In one year, Surfrider and volunteers conducted 27 community cleanups and 120 net patrols, resulting in the removal of an astounding 47,358 pounds of marine debris! Of this total, 15,180 pounds were shipped off for recycling and to create energy through various partnerships, including the Hawai‘i Nets-to-Energy Program.

For more on removal efforts supported by the MDP, check out our website.

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Marine Debris’ No Joke

By: Grace Chon, Pacific Islands Assistant Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program

“I’m just a fish

I ain’t got no arms

And all this trash in my home

Can cause me plenty of harm…”

If you listen to Honolulu Theatre for Youth’s (HTY) song “Marine Debris’ No Joke,” you’ll hear the rest of their creative and entertaining lyrics and voices used to educate audiences, including over 17,000 students and teachers from 118 schools, through performances focused on the issue of marine debris and what YOU can do to help stop this problem. Since 1955, HTY has been producing professional theater and drama education programs that aim to make a difference in the lives of young people, families, and educators in the state of Hawai‘i. This year, HTY partnered with the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) and many other organizations to produce “H20: The Story of Water and Hawai‘i.” Funded through collaboration with the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation, HTY collaborated with the MDP on the marine debris portion, where facts and useful information are presented in an extremely innovative and lively way!

Before attending HTY’s show, teachers were encouraged to give a lesson on marine debris and to lead a beach cleanup, using the collected debris for each student to create a small art piece. If teachers were unable to hold a beach cleanup before attending, marine debris was provided for their class. At the end of HTY’s show, students added their artwork to a larger piece of marine debris art being created at the Honolulu Museum of Art, which will be showcased at the International Union for Conservation of Nature, World Conservation Congress event in Hawai‘i this September.

Seeing the production and learning about marine debris was meaningful for both the teachers and the students. Teachers commented that:

“The show was perfect for 4th grade. The format was entertaining and kept the kids engaged. The Hawaiian language and mo’olelo (storytelling) really helped the students get a better understanding of how important wai (water/ocean) is.”

 “I know that the students were 100% engaged during the entire show! They came back to school and bragged to their friends that it was the best field trip ever! They loved the raps, costumes, plastic trash decorations on set!”

While students exclaimed:

“One thing I learned was about water pollution. I would like to become a water hero so that I can help to clean up the beaches and help the ocean’s wildlife.”

 “I loved your play so much! It was the best play I’ve ever seen. I learned that the animals in the ocean might eat plastic that we throw into the ocean. I felt very sad for them! I really think that your H20 crew made me think I should help and pick up plastic from the beaches.”

In addition to their engaging and informative play and as part of the same educational program, HTY also produced H2O Drama Education Workshops. These included 18 workshops hosted in 13 schools, which taught 959 K-4th grade students about marine debris in a hands-on, engaging, and dramatic style. Bringing the subject home in such a way enables students to connect to the issue without getting overwhelmed by this serious problem.

The impact this program has on students and teachers has continued well beyond the stage and can continue to be referenced to help students connect from the classroom to the ocean. HTY says it best –

“Marine debris’ no joke

It’s all man made

It don’t belong in the ocean

Know what I’m sayin’?”

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Sign Up to Clean Up at the 2016 International Coastal Cleanup!

It’s that time of year again—time to join together and fight marine debris at the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC)! This annual event, put on by the Ocean Conservancy and supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP), brings people together from across the globe to clean up marine debris in their local communities. Last year’s cleanup resulted in more than 18 million pounds of trash collected by almost 800,000 volunteers!

MDP staff will be participating at locations throughout the country—which location will you be at? Find a location and sign up to clean up today! The 2016 International Coastal Cleanup is Saturday, September 17th—we’ll see you there!

Stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter, where we will be providing updates and more information about the ICC in the coming weeks!

Volunteers clean up trash along a riverbank in the Mid-Atlantic.

Volunteers remove debris along the banks of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. during the 2015 ICC. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

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Derelict Net Removal in the Pacific Northwest: A Look Back

The NOAA Marine Debris Program 10 year anniversary identity marker.


Over the years of the NOAA Marine Debris Program, there have been many efforts around the country to rid our waters and shores of marine debris. As part of our ten-year anniversary celebration, let’s take a look back at one of those efforts in the Pacific Northwest.


The Northwest Straits Initiative— which is comprised of the Northwest Straits Commission, county-based Marine Resources Committees, and the non-profit Northwest Straits Foundation— has been a partner of the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) for many years. Starting way back in 2006, the Northwest Straits Foundation began to receive funding from the MDP to assess the impacts of derelict fishing nets to marine species in the Puget Sound. Through this project, the rate of mortality of marine species from derelict nets was analyzed and many derelict nets were removed from the inland ocean waters of the Puget Sound.

A derelict net with many marine animals caught in it.

The rate of mortality of marine species by derelict nets was assessed during the Northwest Straits Foundation project in 2006. (Photo Credit: Northwest Straits Foundation)

Since that initial partnership, these efforts have remained strong as the Northwest Straits Initiative continued to remove derelict nets for over a decade, having started their initial efforts in 2002 (before the MDP was even created!). The partnership with NOAA helped to strengthen these efforts. As the Northwest Straits Foundation took a leading role in addressing derelict fishing gear, over 5,000 derelict nets were removed from the Puget Sound, substantially reducing the amount of shallow water derelict nets in the Puget Sound’s priority areas. Now, it is crucial to reduce the creation of new derelict nets and gear by encouraging responsible use and quick reporting of lost items. This is why the Northwest Straits Initiative is continuing to focus on outreach and education efforts aimed to inform fishers and the public. Check out this recent prevention project, where they do just that!

Read more about this project on the Marine Debris Clearinghouse and on our website.

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Marine Debris in the Pacific Northwest

Like all shores around the world, the Pacific Northwest region is plagued by marine debris. Luckily, there are some pretty awesome efforts currently underway to combat this pervasive problem.

One such project is working to remove derelict crab pots from 20 square miles along the Washington Coast. With support from a NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, The Nature Conservancy  and the Quileute Indian Tribe aren’t just removing derelict pots, but are also developing a sustainable lost pot reporting and annual recovery program, as well as conducting education and outreach! For more on this project, check out this blog or the project profile on our website. A similar project with the Quinault Indian Nation has been ongoing since 2014.

The Northwest Straits Foundation (NWSF) is also doing some exciting things in the Pacific Northwest! With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, they’re conducting outreach to tribal, commercial, and recreational fishermen and crabbers about the impacts of derelict gear, how to prevent gear loss, and how to report lost nets. These efforts include the development of informational videos that teach viewers how to properly rig and deploy their pots! For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

There are lots of cool things going on in the Pacific Northwest! Keep your eyes on our blog this week for more!

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Now Open: FY17 Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant Opportunity

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to announce our “Community-based Marine Debris Removal” federal funding opportunity. This opportunity provides funding to support locally-driven, marine debris assessment and removal projects that will benefit coastal habitat, waterways, and NOAA trust resources. Projects awarded through this grant competition implement on-the-ground marine debris removal activities, with priority for those targeting medium- to large-scale debris, including derelict fishing gear and abandoned and derelict vessels. There is also a secondary priority for projects that conduct post-removal habitat monitoring to assess the beneficial impacts of debris removal. Through this funding opportunity, NOAA works to foster awareness of the effects of marine debris to further the conservation of living marine resource habitats, and contributes to the understanding of marine debris composition, distribution, and impacts. To apply for this grant opportunity, visit

For more information about the program’s competitive federal funding opportunities, visit our website.

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Marine Debris Tracker: Fight Marine Debris with Your Phone!

Marine Debris Tracker App icon.Interested in getting involved in the fight against marine debris but not sure how? Consider downloading the Marine Debris Tracker app and fight debris with your phone!

Marine debris is one of the most pervasive global threats to the health of our ocean. Monitoring where marine debris is found provides important information that can be used to track the progress of prevention efforts, add value to beach cleanups, and inform solutions. The Marine Debris Tracker provides a unique opportunity for you to get involved in collecting marine debris data in your community by allowing users to easily report debris sightings at any time. The Tracker is completely mobile and data can be entered anywhere, even without mobile service! As less of a time-commitment than the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project (MDMAP), the Tracker app is a great way to get involved without getting in over your head!

This mobile application is a joint effort between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI), run out of the University of Georgia College of Engineering. Since its creation in 2010, over 958,000 debris items have been logged from 46 countries!

Be a part of this global effort by tracking debris near you! Use it while on your morning walk, as part of a class project, or while cleaning up your local shore. Grab your phone and go!

Marine debris beach cleanup volunteers track shoreline debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app.

Volunteers track shoreline debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app. (Photo Credit: SEA-MDI)


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