In the fight against marine debris, research plays an important role. New studies have helped us to better understand the issue, although research into marine debris, its sources, and its impacts is still fairly new and there are questions that remain unanswered.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program supports research projects that help to address some of these unanswered questions—questions like: What are the biggest debris sources and what types are most abundant? How is marine debris really affecting natural resources and our economy? Are the chemicals in plastics leaching out into the marine environment? By answering some of these unknowns, research can help us to mitigate impacts, improve current fishing gear setups, and raise awareness of the issue by improving our understanding of marine debris’ harmful impacts.
Here is a small sampling of the research supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Click each project to learn more:
Analysis of Microplastics in Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Mid-Atlantic Water Samples: For this project, the University of Maryland’s Wye Research and Education Center Aquatic Toxicology Group looked at water samples from different areas of the Chesapeake Bay to assess the presence of microplastics and to find any trends between location and microplastic concentration.
Influence of Environmental Conditions on Contaminants Leaching From, and Sorbing To, Marine Microplastic Debris: The Virginia Institute of Marine Science is researching how various factors, like characteristics of the environment, may affect the contaminants leaching from (or attaching to) microplastic debris.
Examining Microplastic Occurrence in the Gut Contents of Sargassum-Associated Juvenile Fishes: The University of Southern Mississippi is investigating if fish that use floating algae as habitat (where marine debris can often be found) are eating microplastics with their natural diet and if so, how much.
Quantification of Marine Microplastics in the Surface Waters of the Gulf of Alaska: The University of Washington Tacoma and UW’s Joint Institute for the Study of the Atmosphere and Ocean used water samples from the Gulf of Alaska to determine the general distribution and quantity of microplastics, as well as to determine if the 2011 Japan tsunami had an effect on microplastic accumulation in that area.