This year marks the ten year anniversary of the NOAA Marine Debris Program and we will be celebrating throughout the year! As part of our celebration, we will be looking back on our accomplishments over the years (check out our timeline for a review of the past decade!). Let’s take a look back to 2012:
The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) faced some important challenges in 2012 and was busier than ever! To start, the Marine Debris Act was amended, expanding to include regional coordination and emergency response. This made the MDP responsible for coordinating with partners on a daily basis, as well as responding to severe debris events. With the added responsibility of regional coordination, the MDP upgraded its reach from six to ten coastal regions, now including the Pacific Islands, Alaska, Pacific Northwest, California, Great Lakes, Gulf of Mexico, Northeast, Mid-Atlantic, Southeast, and Caribbean!
The MDP also began its Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project (MDMAP) in 2012, a citizen science initiative that was created to help us gain a better understanding of the most common types of marine debris and the progress of prevention initiatives. This effort continues today, with the release of the associated “Get Started Toolbox” just this year!
The MDMAP’s monthly shoreline surveys gather important information on marine debris and in 2012, also helped identify Japan Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD), which first reached the West Coast, Alaska, and Hawaii that year. The MDP has since received hundreds of JTMD sightings, and with the help of the Japanese consulate, has been able to definitively trace vessels, buoys, and even a soccer ball back to the tsunami. In some cases, these items have even been returned to their owners!
Unfortunately, JTMD was not the only disaster debris the MDP faced in 2012. Hurricane Sandy caused severe damage on the East coast of the United States, leaving large amounts of debris in waterways and on shorelines. NOAA led efforts to respond to debris alongside federal, state, and local partners and as a result, created best management practices for removing marine debris from wetlands and other sensitive habitats.
Keep an eye on our blog throughout the year to learn about more of the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s accomplishments over the past decade.