NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan Released

Working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Coastal Management Program and numerous other Florida marine debris stakeholders, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to have been involved in the recent creation of the Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan. This Plan, which is a compilation of recommended strategies and actions toward reducing the impacts and amount of marine debris in Florida, is the result of multiple years of collaboration between stakeholders including federal and state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, universities, and industry. Moving into the future, the Plan will act as a guide to measure progress toward addressing the marine debris problem in Florida.

We are happy to announce that the Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan is now available on our website and on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website.

Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan

Check out the Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan!

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Detecting Microplastics in the Marine Environment

By: Amy Uhrin, Chief Scientist with the NOAA Marine Debris Program

Microplastics are a type of plastic marine debris that are less than five millimeters in size. Research on this type of debris has become more widespread, but since there is no single agreed-upon method for separating, counting, and weighing microplastics in water samples, it is difficult to compare results across studies. Common approaches may be used, but most laboratories develop their own procedures based on factors such as budget, equipment availability, labor, and the specific research questions being asked.

Since so many different protocols are being used, the NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered with researchers at the University of Washington Tacoma to compare different methodologies.  Six labs from around the globe were chosen for this comparison, each having experience in processing water samples for the purpose of counting microplastic particles. Reference samples were created by first filtering water collected from the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma, Washington, and then adding a known number and weight of microplastic pieces to 200mL of the filtered water. The types of plastic pieces added to the sample included fragments from drinking straws, netting, sandwich bags, and other common plastic items. These reference samples were shipped in glass jars to participating laboratories for analysis. The labs were asked to use their own methods to process the sample and report the number of particles counted and the total weight of the particles.

The overall accuracy of the protocol comparison was high. Microplastic weights measured by the participating labs differed by only 1.6% on average from the reference sample. There was also high agreement in the particle counts made by each lab versus the reference samples. Projects such as this that evaluate the comparability among labs are a first step toward the development of standardized microplastic sampling methods for the collection of reliable and comparable data. To our knowledge, this is the first interlaboratory comparison for microplastic sampling methods.

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The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference: Call for Technical Sessions, Important Dates, & More

Banner that reads "Sixth International Marine Debris Conference" and a photo of a bird looking at a toothbrush on a beach.

The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference (6IMDC) will be held in San Diego, California, USA, from March 12-16, 2018, and will serve as an opportunity to energize international coordination efforts within the marine debris community. The 6IMDC organizers are pleased to announce updates to the website, including:

Call for Technical Sessions: With a variety of topics available, the 6IMDC organizers are currently soliciting technical session proposals for the conference. Session proposals will be evaluated on technical merit; interest from the greater marine debris community; ability to engage scientists, policymakers, natural resource managers, and industry representatives; and the ability to show a breadth of engagement across disciplines. Visit the Call for Technical Sessions page for more information on session topics and the submission form.

Sponsorship Information: Sponsors interested in marine debris issues will have the opportunity to foster dialogue, forge partnerships, and promote communication and education. The 6IMDC sponsors will receive highly-visible recognition for their support in making this conference a success. Sponsorship opportunities are available at various contribution levels that will highlight your commitment and support for the marine debris community. Visit the Sponsorship page to learn more about the available selection of sponsorship opportunities.

Please note the Important Dates page for a full listing of activities and ways to participate during the year leading up to the event.

Looking forward to seeing you at the 6IMDC! To stay tuned for more information, sign-up for updates or email with any ideas or questions.

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It’s St. Patrick’s Day, So Keep Our Ocean Clean and Go Green!

Today is Saint Patrick’s Day and let the sea of green that comes with this holiday remind you to “go green” today and every day! There are lots of ways we can all make our lives a little greener. How could you make your life more environmentally-friendly? Here are some ideas to get you started:

Remember your 3R’s. One of the easiest ways to “go green” is to follow the 3R’s every day and reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible!

Spread the word. Let others know about issues like marine debris and how they can help. A lot of people are unaware of these issues and how their actions can affect our environment. Get your friends and family in on the action and go green together!

Join a cleanup. If you’d like to take a more active role, join a cleanup in your area! Our monthly e-newsletter lists cleanup events around the country each month. Can’t find one near you that works with your schedule? Start one yourself! Gather some friends and pick up debris in your neighborhood or at a nearby stream, river, or shoreline (please remember, safety first!).

Skip the garbage can during spring cleaning. Spring is starting to show itself and with that often comes spring cleaning. Skip the “out with the old, in with the new” mindset and reuse some of those old items rather than tossing them. Donate those old clothes when you’re cleaning out your closet, reuse them as rags, or even convert them into something new!

Keep these in mind as you work to keep our ocean clean and go green for St. Patrick’s Day!

Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the NOAA Marine Debris Program

A child's drawing of a sea turtle versus a sea turtle filled with marine debris.

Keep our ocean clean and go green! (2013 Art Contest Winner: Aleena F., Grade 5, Texas)

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Consumer Debris and the Great Lakes

While marine debris is perhaps more commonly thought of as an oceanic problem, the Great Lakes region is an area that is also affected by debris, particularly consumer product items and other such land-based litter. In 2015 alone, the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach Program removed 92,616 pounds of debris from Great Lakes habitats. These debris items come from a multitude of sources including overflowing trash cans and other improper waste management, as well as both accidental and intentional littering. Being far from the ocean, many people don’t think about how their trash can end up in our waterways. Weather such as winds and rains can help transport debris into streams and rivers, eventually traveling into the Great Lakes. Once in our environment, these debris items can cause a range of issues, including ingestion by and entanglement of wildlife, hazards for fishermen and boaters, and even simply creating an eyesore on once-beautiful shorelines.

Luckily, people are taking notice of this problem and are working to solve it. In 2014, regional stakeholders developed the Great Lakes Land-based Marine Debris Action Plan to serve as a road map for taking strategic action and making progress toward the goal of the Great Lakes free from the impacts of marine debris. An annual review of the plan keeps this progress on track and ensures any new issues are addressed. Other efforts in the region include work by many marine debris stakeholders, as well as through projects funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program. One such effort, led by the City of Cleveland, is working to prevent consumer product marine debris by developing a social marketing campaign to target three primary consumer items of concern in Cleveland—plastic water bottles, plastic bags, and cigar tips.

You can help to prevent consumer product marine debris in the Great Lakes and in your region by making sure to dispose of your trash properly. Follow the 3R’s and reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible. Join a cleanup to help remove the debris that’s already out there and spread the word to others! Together we can help to solve this very preventable problem.

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Addressing Marine Debris in the Great Lakes

Sarah Lowe.Meet Sarah Lowe, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Great Lakes Regional Coordinator! After earning her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Sarah worked as a research technician on projects involving important Great Lakes issues such as agricultural influences on community diversity, invasive species community interactions, and industrial and contaminant impacts to fisheries. In 2009, Sarah began working with the NOAA Marine Debris Program through the Knauss Sea Grant Fellowship, focusing on developing shoreline marine debris monitoring protocols. In 2010, Sarah moved into her current position as the Great Lakes Regional Coordinator, where she has worked to raise awareness about marine debris in the region and to lead the development of a Great Lakes Marine Debris Action Plan. Reach out to Sarah at!

The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Great Lakes region is a large one, encompassing all Great Lakes states— from New York to Minnesota. This region has unique beauty with its complex system of habitats, ranging from the Lakes themselves to their associated wetlands, rivers, and tributaries.  Unfortunately, this landscape is marred by the presence of marine debris. Like many places throughout the country, marine debris is a big problem in the Great Lakes region, impacting the environment and the animals that live there, as well as the Great Lakes’ robust recreational fishing and boating economy. Luckily, there are many efforts currently underway to tackle marine debris in this area. Check out some of the newly-established projects funded by the Marine Debris Program:

To address some of the derelict fishing gear that impacts the Great Lakes’ environment as well as the fishing and boating communities, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant is working to remove derelict fishing nets (or “ghost nets”) in Lake Superior. These nets can create safety risks and so this project is working to develop a crowd-sourced ghost net removal program to reduce this threat. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

While removing debris is unfortunately necessary, the ultimate solution to the problem is to prevent debris items from becoming marine debris in the first place. The School District of the City of Erie, Pennsylvania, is working to do just that by leading education and outreach efforts that reach students, teachers, and the community of Erie, PA. Through these efforts, they’re training teachers and educating students about marine debris, what type of trash is generated in their schools and neighborhoods, and helping students to develop strategies for reducing the amount of trash produced. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

There are lots of cool things happening in the Great Lakes and considering this week marks 2017’s Great Lakes Day, we’re going to celebrate this region by highlighting some of it! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Great Lakes and throughout the country!


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Spring Break Means Warming Weather and Marine Debris

Believe it or not, but flowers are already poking their heads out and it’s about time for spring break for students around the country. Whether you’re spending your break in an exotic location or staying local, there are lots of opportunities to spend this time giving back while still having fun.

A great way to both enjoy some outside time and do some good for your environment is to join a shoreline cleanup! There are lots of cleanups happening around the country and across the world, so find one in your area and help pick up some marine debris. No scheduled cleanup near you? Start one yourself by organizing a group of people to clean up your nearby shoreline or street (just remember, safety first!).

If staying indoors is more your thing, you can still help fight marine debris! The ultimate solution to this problem is prevention, so spread the word to your family and friends. Feeling crafty? Make some signs to let people know how they can help. Or, take some of those old items you’ve been meaning to throw away and repurpose them into something useful.

Spring break already packed? No worries, there are still lots of ways you can help in the fight against marine debris without taking up a lot of time. One of the best ways to fight marine debris daily is by making sure to follow the 3Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle! Even though it might not seem like much, if we all put forth just a little effort, together we can make a big difference!

A flowering tree with a plastic bag caught in the branches.

It’s getting warmer out and you’re probably seeing flowers blooming, birds chirping, and… debris. Unfortunately, trash like this bag can easily find its way into our waters, becoming marine debris. Spend your spring break addressing this problem! (Photo Credit: NOAA)