NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Sign Up to Clean Up at the 2016 International Coastal Cleanup!

It’s that time of year again—time to join together and fight marine debris at the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC)! This annual event, put on by the Ocean Conservancy and supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP), brings people together from across the globe to clean up marine debris in their local communities. Last year’s cleanup resulted in more than 18 million pounds of trash collected by almost 800,000 volunteers!

MDP staff will be participating at locations throughout the country—which location will you be at? Find a location and sign up to clean up today! The 2016 International Coastal Cleanup is Saturday, September 17th—we’ll see you there!

Stay tuned to Facebook and Twitter, where we will be providing updates and more information about the ICC in the coming weeks!

Volunteers clean up trash along a riverbank in the Mid-Atlantic.

Volunteers remove debris along the banks of the Anacostia River in Washington, D.C. during the 2015 ICC. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

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Derelict Net Removal in the Pacific Northwest: A Look Back

The NOAA Marine Debris Program 10 year anniversary identity marker.


Over the years of the NOAA Marine Debris Program, there have been many efforts around the country to rid our waters and shores of marine debris. As part of our ten-year anniversary celebration, let’s take a look back at one of those efforts in the Pacific Northwest.


The Northwest Straits Initiative— which is comprised of the Northwest Straits Commission, county-based Marine Resources Committees, and the non-profit Northwest Straits Foundation— has been a partner of the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) for many years. Starting way back in 2006, the Northwest Straits Foundation began to receive funding from the MDP to assess the impacts of derelict fishing nets to marine species in the Puget Sound. Through this project, the rate of mortality of marine species from derelict nets was analyzed and many derelict nets were removed from the inland ocean waters of the Puget Sound.

A derelict net with many marine animals caught in it.

The rate of mortality of marine species by derelict nets was assessed during the Northwest Straits Foundation project in 2006. (Photo Credit: Northwest Straits Foundation)

Since that initial partnership, these efforts have remained strong as the Northwest Straits Initiative continued to remove derelict nets for over a decade, having started their initial efforts in 2002 (before the MDP was even created!). The partnership with NOAA helped to strengthen these efforts. As the Northwest Straits Foundation took a leading role in addressing derelict fishing gear, over 5,000 derelict nets were removed from the Puget Sound, substantially reducing the amount of shallow water derelict nets in the Puget Sound’s priority areas. Now, it is crucial to reduce the creation of new derelict nets and gear by encouraging responsible use and quick reporting of lost items. This is why the Northwest Straits Initiative is continuing to focus on outreach and education efforts aimed to inform fishers and the public. Check out this recent prevention project, where they do just that!

Read more about this project on the Marine Debris Clearinghouse and on our website.

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Marine Debris in the Pacific Northwest

Like all shores around the world, the Pacific Northwest region is plagued by marine debris. Luckily, there are some pretty awesome efforts currently underway to combat this pervasive problem.

One such project is working to remove derelict crab pots from 20 square miles along the Washington Coast. With support from a NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, The Nature Conservancy  and the Quileute Indian Tribe aren’t just removing derelict pots, but are also developing a sustainable lost pot reporting and annual recovery program, as well as conducting education and outreach! For more on this project, check out this blog or the project profile on our website. A similar project with the Quinault Indian Nation has been ongoing since 2014.

The Northwest Straits Foundation (NWSF) is also doing some exciting things in the Pacific Northwest! With the support of a NOAA Marine Debris Program Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach Grant, they’re conducting outreach to tribal, commercial, and recreational fishermen and crabbers about the impacts of derelict gear, how to prevent gear loss, and how to report lost nets. These efforts include the development of informational videos that teach viewers how to properly rig and deploy their pots! For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

There are lots of cool things going on in the Pacific Northwest! Keep your eyes on our blog this week for more!

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Now Open: FY17 Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant Opportunity

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to announce our “Community-based Marine Debris Removal” federal funding opportunity. This opportunity provides funding to support locally-driven, marine debris assessment and removal projects that will benefit coastal habitat, waterways, and NOAA trust resources. Projects awarded through this grant competition implement on-the-ground marine debris removal activities, with priority for those targeting medium- to large-scale debris, including derelict fishing gear and abandoned and derelict vessels. There is also a secondary priority for projects that conduct post-removal habitat monitoring to assess the beneficial impacts of debris removal. Through this funding opportunity, NOAA works to foster awareness of the effects of marine debris to further the conservation of living marine resource habitats, and contributes to the understanding of marine debris composition, distribution, and impacts. To apply for this grant opportunity, visit

For more information about the program’s competitive federal funding opportunities, visit our website.

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Marine Debris Tracker: Fight Marine Debris with Your Phone!

Marine Debris Tracker App icon.Interested in getting involved in the fight against marine debris but not sure how? Consider downloading the Marine Debris Tracker app and fight debris with your phone!

Marine debris is one of the most pervasive global threats to the health of our ocean. Monitoring where marine debris is found provides important information that can be used to track the progress of prevention efforts, add value to beach cleanups, and inform solutions. The Marine Debris Tracker provides a unique opportunity for you to get involved in collecting marine debris data in your community by allowing users to easily report debris sightings at any time. The Tracker is completely mobile and data can be entered anywhere, even without mobile service! As less of a time-commitment than the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project (MDMAP), the Tracker app is a great way to get involved without getting in over your head!

This mobile application is a joint effort between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative (SEA-MDI), run out of the University of Georgia College of Engineering. Since its creation in 2010, over 958,000 debris items have been logged from 46 countries!

Be a part of this global effort by tracking debris near you! Use it while on your morning walk, as part of a class project, or while cleaning up your local shore. Grab your phone and go!

Marine debris beach cleanup volunteers track shoreline debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app.

Volunteers track shoreline debris using the Marine Debris Tracker app. (Photo Credit: SEA-MDI)

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Surveypalooza: Marine Debris Monitoring on the West Coast

By: Sherry Lippiatt, California Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program

Map of 16 survey sites.

Map of the 16 sites surveyed during “surveypalooza” along the Washington, Oregon, and California coasts. (Photo Credit: NOAA, courtesy Google)

On July 15th, an intrepid group of shoreline survey enthusiasts departed Seattle for nearly a week on the road. The mission: to spend a full six days surveying West Coast beaches for marine debris. The goal of this “surveypalooza” was to compare shoreline survey methodologies developed by the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP; for the Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project, or “MDMAP”) and the Australian Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO). All told, our team of eight (including staff from the MDP, CSIRO, and the Ocean Conservancy) completed 26 individual monitoring surveys at 16 shoreline sites located approximately every 100 km along the coasts of Washington, Oregon, and Northern California.

Monitoring shorelines for marine debris can help answer some important questions, such as: how big is the marine debris problem, and how is it changing over time? Or, what types of debris are most common in a region? There are a lot of questions that drive monitoring efforts, but developing a standardized monitoring protocol is not so straightforward. Considerations such as the minimum size of debris that is recorded, the area of the shoreline that’s sampled, and how debris items are classified can all impact whether results from two different studies can be compared (yes, there are MANY different ways to count trash on shorelines!). By comparing and contrasting data collected at the same shoreline locations using both the NOAA and CSIRO methods, we can better understand differences between the two types of surveys and develop ways in which to improve data collection protocols and make data sets compatible with one another for analysis. Data compatibility allows us to incorporate results from studies in other regions to tell a larger story about the types, abundances, sources, and drivers of marine debris.

NOAA MDP Chief Scientist Amy Uhrin, NOAA MDP California Regional Coordinator Sherry Lippiatt, and CSIRO's Denise Hardesty discuss monitoring on Third Beach, WA.

NOAA MDP Chief Scientist Amy Uhrin, NOAA MDP California Regional Coordinator Sherry Lippiatt, and CSIRO’s Denise Hardesty discuss monitoring on Third Beach, WA. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

“Surveypalooza” was just one part of CSIRO’s ongoing analysis of MDMAP and Ocean Conservancy International Coastal Cleanup data. The project is working to put all of the largely volunteer-collected MDMAP data into one model to assess debris at broader regional and national scales. Stay tuned for more results!

Interested in collecting marine debris data for NOAA? Check out the MDMAP Get Started Toolbox or the Marine Debris Tracker App for more details.

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Back to School with Marine Debris!

Believe it or not, it’s that time of year again: back to school. That also means that it’s a good time to brush up on your marine debris education!

There are lots of ways to help fight marine debris while heading back to school! Consider green school supplies and make sure that you’re incorporating the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle!) into your everyday routine. You can also work to incorporate marine debris education into your classroom through various activities and lessons.

"ABC: It's easy to stop debris!" infographic.

If you’re looking for some useful marine debris activities and curricula for your class, look no further! The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) has lots of engaging resources that are free and available to download.

Looking for curricula to incorporate into your lesson plans? You can find useful ideas for lessons and activities relating to marine debris on our website! Check out “An Educator’s Guide to Marine Debris,” a curriculum appropriate for grades K through 12. Or, take a peek at this web-based Marine Debris STEAMSS (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, and Social Studies) curriculum. Created by our partners at Oregon State University and funded by the MDP, it helps to incorporate marine debris lessons for grades 4 through 12 into various disciplines.

Want to talk about marine debris in your classroom but not sure how to begin? Consider showing TRASH TALK in your class! This fifteen-minute video (which can also be broken down into six two-minute videos that go over various aspects of the issue) reviews the basics of marine debris in a fun, interesting way that’s both engaging and easy to understand. In fact, the TRASH TALK Special Feature recently received a Regional Emmy® Award!

Looking for marine debris activities to incorporate into your lessons or to engage your after school group? Check out the TRASH TALK Webinar for Educators. This ten-minute video goes through examples of fun, hands-on activities that bring marine debris issues to life and make them easier to understand. These activities can also serve as a great way to get the conversation going after viewing the TRASH TALK videos.

Prevention is the ultimate solution to marine debris and education is the key. As the school year ramps up, so can our efforts against marine debris!


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