NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

1 Comment

Ten Years of the NOAA Marine Debris Program: 2013

The NOAA Marine Debris Program 10 year anniversary identity marker.

This year marks the ten year anniversary of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and we will be celebrating throughout the year! As part of our celebration, we will be looking back on our accomplishments over the years (check out our timeline for a review of the past decade!). Let’s take a look back to 2013:


The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) was busy once again in 2013, working hard to further our mission of preventing the adverse impacts of marine debris. This year was the first of our Prevention through Education and Outreach competitive grants, focusing on preventing marine debris by reaching out to students and communities. During this first year, we funded eight prevention projects.

This year also marked our first research grant competition, focusing on learning more about the issue so we can better address it in the future. Three research projects were funded. As these initial funded projects wrap up (keep an eye on our blog for some of the general results!), we’re gearing up for our next research grant competition. Proposals are currently being accepted until December 19th. Check out our Funding Opportunities webpage for more details.

The MDP was also hard at work in 2013 addressing the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy. With the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, Congress provided the MDP with $4.75 million to locate and remove the marine debris generated by the storm.

A crane picking up houseboat wreckage from the water.

Hurricane Sandy caused devastation along the U.S. East Coast. Here, a damaged house boat is removed. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Not only was the MDP busy with competitive grants and Hurricane Sandy debris, but we also put out some pretty useful products! The Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment: Recommendations for Monitoring Debris Trends in the Marine Environment report was published and the Marine Debris Clearinghouse was launched, giving information on all of our funded projects!

Keep an eye on our blog throughout the year to learn about more of the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s accomplishments over the past decade.

Leave a comment

NOAA Marine Debris Program Releases 2016 Accomplishments Report

By: Nancy Wallace, Director of the NOAA Marine Debris Program

This year has been a busy one for the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and it was particularly special, as 2016 marked our ten-year anniversary. Looking back on the last decade, I am proud of what we have been able to accomplish and how much we’ve grown both in size and impact. This past year also marked the first under our most recent Strategic Plan. Following this ambitious guide, we have worked toward making our vision— an end to marine debris— a reality.

I am proud of the Program’s achievements to address marine debris and although we still have a lot of work to do, I am confident in our direction for the future, learning from the past decade of excellent marine debris work. With that, I am pleased to present the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s 2016 Accomplishments Report, which highlights some of our major accomplishments over the past fiscal year.

Cover of 2016 Accomplishments Report.

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is happy to announce the release of our Fiscal Year 2016 Accomplishments Report.

Leave a comment

Now Open: The Annual NOAA Marine Debris Program Art Contest!

Get your art supplies ready, because this year’s NOAA Marine Debris Program Art Contest is now officially open!

Students grades K-8 can submit artwork through November 30th that answers the questions:

  • How does marine debris impact the oceans and Great Lakes?
  • What are you doing to help prevent marine debris?

Winning entries will be featured in our 2018 Marine Debris Calendar. Be creative and help raise awareness about marine debris! For a complete list of contest rules, visit our website and download the student entry form and art contest flyer.

Ready… set… draw!

Art contest flyer.

This year’s NOAA Marine Debris Program Annual Art Contest runs from October 17th through November 30th. Check out our website for more information!

Leave a comment

Fishing for Energy in Washington State!

Lost or abandoned fishing gear can damage marine habitats, create hazards to navigation, entangle marine animals, and continue to catch harvestable species – a phenomenon known as “ghost fishing.” To prevent fishing gear from becoming marine debris, the Fishing for Energy program – a partnership between the Marine Debris Program, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, Covanta, and Schnitzer Steel –places fishing gear collection bins at local ports, providing fishermen with a no-cost opportunity to dispose of derelict and retired gear.

To date, the Fishing for Energy program has placed gear collection bins at 48 ports in 10 states and has collected over three million pounds of fishing gear! Once the gear is collected, Schnitzer Steel sorts out recyclable metals and the remaining non-recyclable materials are converted to energy at Covanta’s Energy-from-Waste facilities.

Earlier today, the Fishing for Energy partners held an event in Westport, Washington to launch a new collection bin at the Port of Grays Harbor— the first bin in Washington State! The bin will not only collect gear from local port users, but also derelict crab pots collected by The Nature Conservancy and its partners – the Quinault Indian Nation and the Quileute Indian Tribe – as part of two NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Removal Grants.

Representative Derek Kilmer joined the media and interested local residents to learn first-hand about the new collection bin and the derelict crab pot removal projects. Events like these are a great opportunity to raise awareness about marine debris and educate communities about local solutions.

Fishing for Energy logo.

Leave a comment

Deadline Extended: FY17 Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant Opportunity

The deadline for the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s 2017 “Community-based Marine Debris Removal” federal funding opportunity has been extended due to disruption from Hurricane Matthew affecting many of our potential applicants. The new deadline is Thursday, October 202016.

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.

Leave a comment

Marine Debris Research: Ecological and Economic Assessment of Derelict Fishing Gear in the Chesapeake Bay

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

The Chesapeake Bay blue crab fishery accounts for 50% of the United States blue crab harvest, and is worth about $80 million annually. It’s estimated that about 600,000 crab traps (also called “pots”) are actively fished on an annual basis in the Bay. Some crab pots become lost (derelict) when the pot’s buoy line becomes detached or cut, either by vessel propellers, faulty lines, or vandalism. Strong storms can also move pots from their original deployment location, making them difficult to relocate. In addition, pots may be abandoned, as has been observed at high rates in some regions of the Bay. Once lost, derelict pots can damage sensitive habitats and continue to capture blue crabs and other animals, often resulting in their death. To assess the ecological and economic impacts of derelict blue crab pots in the Chesapeake Bay, a diverse team of researchers from CSS-Dynamac, Inc.; Versar, Inc.; the Virginia Institute of Marine Science; and Global Science & Technology, Inc. recently completed a comprehensive Bay-wide assessment, funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

A derelict drab trap.

Blue crabs are harvested using rigid, cube-shaped wire traps that are galvanized or vinyl-coated. Here, diamondback terrapins can be seen inside a standard pot. (Photo Credit: CCRM/VIMS)

This study estimates that some 145,000 derelict crab pots exist in the Chesapeake Bay, with 12-20% of actively-fished pots becoming lost each year. Not surprisingly, many derelict pots are found in areas of the Bay with heavy recreational and commercial boat traffic or fishing activity. These derelict pots kill over 3.3 million blue crabs annually. In addition, many other economically-important species can be impacted, such as white perch (3.5 million captured annually) and Atlantic croaker (3.6 million captured annually). Derelict pots thus “compete” with pots that are in active use —they catch or attract crabs that could otherwise be caught by active pots, and can therefore reduce commercial harvests.

Map of Chesapeake Bay with colors indicating density of derelict pots.

The predicted spatial distribution of derelict crab pot densities in Chesapeake Bay. (Photo Credit: CSS-Dynamac, Inc.; Versar, Inc.; Virginia Institute of Marine Science; and Global Science & Technology, Inc.)

Through statistical modeling, this study found that targeted derelict crab pot removal programs greatly increase the number of crabs caught by actively-fished pots, resulting in significant economic benefits for the fishery. The model estimated that derelict pot removals increased Bay-wide crab harvests by over 38 million pounds over a six-year period (2008 to 2014), amounting to $33.5 million in added revenue (in 2014 dollars). This study also found that pot removals are most effective when they focus on areas with intensive crab fishing activity.

This study also suggests management actions that may help in reducing the number of new derelict pots and their associated negative impacts. These include minimizing boat traffic in popular crabbing areas and educating boat operators about avoiding active crab pots, which would help reduce the number of cut buoy lines. Creating and maintaining derelict pot recovery programs, or incentivizing watermen to remove lost pots, would also help reduce the number of derelict pots in the Bay. In addition, outfitting crab pots with biodegradable “escape hatch” panels would reduce mortality of captured animals.

In addition to the Chesapeake Bay assessment, the team also created a Guiding Framework for derelict fishing gear assessments, which can be applied to other fisheries and/or regions interested in conducting similar studies. The final report for the Chesapeake Bay Assessment and the Guiding Framework document can be found on our website.

Leave a comment

Removing Debris in Tenakee Springs, Alaska: 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 Alaska.


Back in 2012, the community of Tenakee Springs, Alaska received funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program to remove debris in their remote community. Tenakee Springs, with less than 100 residents, sits about 50 air miles from Juneau in Southeast Alaska and is inaccessible by road. In fact, there are no roads at all in the town, just a long, wide trail that people use to get around via foot, bike, or four-wheeler.

Residents of this secluded community began to notice debris such as plastic bottles, cans, fishing floats, and other trash items washing up on the shores of the town’s inlet. Between this influx of debris and other debris that had been sitting around for a while, such as old house boats and legacy fishing gear, the community decided it was time to do something! Tenakee residents volunteered to take part in the project and in the spring of 2013, they gave over 800 hours of time to clean over 35 miles of shoreline, removing almost 3.5 tons of debris! Some residents even reused some of the collected debris, incorporating debris from the old house boats in the construction of a new cabin in town.

Read more about this interesting project on this old blog post or on the Marine Debris Clearinghouse.