NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Background and description of the 2008 Gulf of Mexico Marine Debris Project

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During the 2005 hurricane season, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita inflicted severe damage on the Gulf of Mexico coastal region and deposited huge amounts of debris over large areas of the Gulf coast. Submerged marine debris poses a hazard to vessel traffic and can adversely affect commercially viable fishing grounds.

In an effort to address these concerns, survey work began in September 2006 in Alabama, Mississippi, and Eastern Louisiana. NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and its contractors surveyed the area with side-scan sonar and found over 5,000 submerged potential debris items, referred to as contacts. The sonar contacts were mapped and posted on the project Web site to advise boaters and assist with marine debris removal.

In 2008 these efforts continue in Louisiana. NOAA’s
Office of Response and Restoration and Office of Coast Survey cooperate closely with the United States Coast Guard, Federal Emergency Management Agency, and Louisiana Department of Natural Resources to survey offshore areas in Louisiana, map the new sonar contacts, and post them on the project Web site. Contacts requiring additional investigation are re-surveyed with multi-beam sonar, which provides more accurate target depth and a multi-dimensional view of the item found. Items considered a danger to navigation (DTON) are listed on the Web site and their presence promptly forwarded to the Coast Guard.

The Web site provides both static maps and GPS coordinates which can easily be downloaded and printed, and an interactive mapping option where users can zoom into a specific area and point on a contact icon to get more information. In addition, the project is undertaking an outreach effort to make local users aware of the survey and mapping efforts, and of the survey contacts found.

Parallel to the offshore survey, the Coast Guard, in cooperation with FEMA, NOAA, state agencies, and parishes, is conducting a large-scale survey and removal effort of Katrina and Rita-related debris items within inshore waterways. After the parishes provide information on impacted waterways, a survey is conducted and debris items posing a hazard to navigation in the waterway are located and mapped. Following consultation with and evaluation by Federal and state agencies, debris removal is conducted in a manner compatible with best environmental practices. Waterway maps and photos generated for this effort are also posted on the project Web site.

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

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