NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

The Mississippi Marine Debris Removal & Prevention Project

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By guest blogger, Becca Mathias, Gulf Coast Research Lab – Marine Education Center

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Significant amounts of marine debris were collected and removed during a single day. Photo courtesy of B. Mathias.

The Mississippi Marine Debris Removal and Prevention Project involves community members in cleaning up debris from Deer Island near Biloxi, MS. The project also helps creates an educated cadre of citizens who better understand the importance of marine debris prevention. This project is grant funded by the Mississippi’s Department of Marine Resources, Coastal Impact Assistance Program, and The University of Southern Mississippi’s Gulf Coast Research Lab.

We held our first two-day marine debris workshop in July 2011 along with a beach clean up on July 8 on Deer Island where we collected nearly 430 lbs of trash, mostly made up of plastics and fireworks. The workshop consisted of two days. The first was a day full of marine debris activities, an introduction to marine debris, the problem on the Gulf Coast, and the repercussions of it all. I had a really great group of teachers who went above and beyond during the workshop and I was thrilled to have had them be my first participants!

Day two was the beach clean-up. We spent over the amount of time expected cleaning up Deer Island. We got to the island at 9am and didn’t get back until after 2pm. There was so much trash on the island that we ran out of bags and resorted to using plastic bags left there by campers. It was very ironic to see how many people brought trash bags onto the island with them, but failed to take them back when they left. We brought the trash back to our lab, loaded it on a truck (took two loads), sorted, weighed, and recorded it. We recycled what we could, but much of the trash collected was not accepted at our local recycling center.

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Teachers received education, training, and field experience to pass along to their students. Photo courtesy of B. Mathias.

We really stressed the importance of educating others on how we are all interconnected. For example, what a person throws away in Ohio still ends up in the Gulf of Mexico one day. I think many folks forget or think that our land (no matter how far from the coast) is not connected to the ocean; this is a great misconception. I have noticed that many people don’t grasp the concept that no matter where you live, your decisions affect the marine ecosystem. Marine debris is a global problem and no one thinks that the small things will really make a difference. However, if everyone did the small things, like shopped with reusable bags when they could and picked up trash they saw lying on the ground, they would become a force strong enough to make a major impact.

I recently found out that Vancleave High School in Jackson County, MS is now starting a plastic recycling program as a result of our workshop. They will also be taking time to educate a 4th grade gifted program, called WINGS, about the marine debris issue and the repercussions of it all. The NOAA Marine Debris Program continues to work to support this, and related research, prevention, and reduction projects, along the Gulf of Mexico coast.

For more information, please contact Becca Mathias (Rebecca.Mathias@usm.edu), Marine Education Specialist, Gulf Coast Research Lab – Marine Education Center.

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.

2 thoughts on “The Mississippi Marine Debris Removal & Prevention Project

  1. I support this drive to get rid of all the wastes in our oceans and rivers. I’m glad people are doing their part to save the environment. Hopefully, more people will support and join this project for the sake of our environment and our kid’s future. Great work guys!

  2. Way cool! Some extremely valid points! I appreciate you writing this article plus the rest of the website is really good.

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