NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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Know Your Enemy: Marine Debris Research is Essential to the Fight Against It


Microplastics are at the forefront of marine debris research. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Microplastics are at the forefront of marine debris research. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

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.

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 “Know Your Enemy: Marine Debris Research is Essential to the Fight Against It

  1. Hello!!

    Thank you for sending us the blog! I was wondering if I could use some of the photos you have posted to make a sign for one of the main and most important beaches in Uruguay. Here the litter people leave after they spend the whole day at the beach is embarrassing and until now there are no campaigns installing knowledge. I requested to put as sign and was accepted! So I´m looking for the best photos of marine debris interacting with animals beaches and the water…

    If you could help me with this I would be even more grateful!!

    Thanks, Martina

    • Hi Martina, thanks for getting involved in the fight against marine debris! We are always happy to hear of people taking the initiative to get involved! You can find a good assortment of photos on our website’s photo library as well as on our flickr account, please simply include photo credits. Some of our photos come from other organizations and so if there are any specific additional photos you would like to use, please check in by emailing us at and we can check with the specific organization if they will allow for public distribution.

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