NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

Responding to Marine Debris Incidents: MDP Guides

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Unfortunately, incidents that cause marine debris are an unavoidable part of life. Events like severe storms, floods, tsunamis, or maritime disasters can all result in a large influx of debris. To improve preparedness for response to and recovery from such events, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is facilitating planning efforts in coastal states. These efforts work to outline existing response structures at the local, state, and federal levels, capturing all relevant responsibilities and existing procedures into one guidance document for easy reference. The process first includes the development of the guidance document, followed by drills to test response effectiveness, and finally, supporting the integration of this information into other existing response plans.

Derelict vessels washed up on the shore.

Established response guides will help state and local officials, along with federal partners, respond to acute marine debris incidents in coastal states. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

It is a highly collaborative effort, with input from local, state, and federal entities active in the region. The creation of these documents, which are fluid documents that are regularly updated, aims to facilitate a more timely and effective response to waterway debris incidents in our coastal states. Check out the response guides that are currently available:

  • Florida Incident Waterway Debris Response Guide: This guide is our most recent completed effort and was just uploaded to our website earlier this month!
  • Alabama Incident Waterway Debris Response Plan: This plan was our first completed plan following our newly-established response plan process. It was completed in May 2015 and updated in April 2016.
  • West Coast Efforts: The 2011 tsunami in Japan was a natural disaster that resulted in many lives lost, property damaged or destroyed, and a large amount of debris introduced into the ocean. Pacific states began to see some of this debris washing up on their shores, prompting the creation of response plans. The NOAA Marine Debris Program worked in close collaboration with partners in the development of these plans. These efforts resulted in response plans for Washington (modified in 2015 to be more relevant for events outside debris from the 2011 tsunami), Oregon, and California, as well as a Marine Debris and Severe Marine Debris Event section in the Northwest Area Contingency Plan, and provided a model for our current response efforts.

It is important for local, state, and federal agencies within each coastal state to be prepared to respond efficiently and effectively in the event of an acute marine debris incident, including a severe marine debris event. It is our hope that with these regional response guides in place, the impact of debris associated with these events can be mitigated as much as possible.

This is an ongoing effort and the guide for North Carolina is coming soon! The process has also begun in Mississippi and South Carolina, with more on the horizon. For more information on our response planning efforts and to access the available guidance documents, visit our website.

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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