The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) is proud to announce the release of the new Marine Debris Emergency Response document for Mississippi! This guide takes existing roles and authorities, as they relate to response to an incident that generates large amounts of debris in coastal waterways, and presents them in one guidance document for easy reference. By collaborating with local, state, and federal entities active in the region, this guide aims to facilitate a more timely and effective response to marine debris incidents in Mississippi.
Abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) are a type of large marine debris that is a problem throughout the country. ADVs can be aesthetically unappealing, but can also create real problems by damaging important habitat, creating hazards to navigation and recreation, leaking pollutants into the environment, and impacting fisheries resources. Vessels can become derelict in a variety of ways, such as being abandoned by their owner after acquiring damage or sunk during a severe storm. Unfortunately, this type of debris can be extremely difficult and costly to remove, often making it difficult to address.
ADVs are particularly a problem in the Gulf of Mexico, especially due to the many severe storms in this region. ADVs and dilapidated docks remain along numerous rivers and tributaries that drain into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these debris items are a direct result of storms including Hurricanes Ivan in 2004, Katrina and Rita in 2005, Ike in 2008, and Isaac in 2012. Unfortunately, this effect of these storms is not fully understood by many and it is an all too common practice in this region for boat owners to anchor their vessels in river systems prior to hurricane landfalls. Those boats can then lose their moorings and drift into marshes and stream banks from the strong winds, currents, and flooding that accompany these storms.
To address this problem in the Gulf region, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) has funded projects specifically to remove ADVs, including efforts in Dog River and Bayou la Batre, Alabama. Currently, the MDP is funding a project in Galveston Bay, Texas to remove large debris items such as ADVs. Unfortunately, there are still many ADVs that the MDP is not able to address due to costs and removal difficulties. For this reason, the MDP created the ADV InfoHub, which details how to address ADVs and provides avenues for removal in each coastal state. The ADV InfoHub also contains case studies and law reviews available for all Gulf States. In addition, the MDP has been involved in the creation of incident waterway response guides in both Florida and Alabama. These guides are meant to improve preparedness for response to and recovery from severe marine debris events by outlining existing responsibilities and procedures in one document for easy reference.
Meet Caitlin Wessel, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Gulf of Mexico Regional Coordinator! Caitlin has a broad background in both education and research, with a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and a M.S. from Coastal Carolina University in Coastal, Marine, and Wetland Studies. In her downtime, Caitlin can be found working towards her PhD in Marine Science from the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, scuba diving, kayaking, or hiking with her puppies. For questions about the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Gulf of Mexico efforts, reach out to Caitlin at firstname.lastname@example.org!
Marine debris is an issue throughout the country and unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico is no different. To address this problem, we first must work to prevent trash from becoming marine debris and we do this through education and outreach. Unfortunately, there’s enough debris out there that we must also work to remove it. Check out some of the efforts currently underway to prevent and remove debris in the Gulf:
Sea Turtle, Inc. is working to prevent marine debris by developing bilingual signage on South Padre Island, Texas. They’re also developing a display and educational programs for students to learn about marine debris, its impacts on wildlife (like sea turtles), and the ways we can help prevent it. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
Ship Island Excursions is also working to prevent marine debris in the Gulf by educating students and community members in Southern Mississippi. As part of this project, they are providing marine debris education to coastal Mississippi students and providing outreach to passengers aboard the Ship Island Ferry through an interactive kiosk, signage, and marine educators and student ambassadors. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
To address the debris that’s already in our waters and on our shores, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is monitoring and removing derelict crab traps in Southern Alabama. They are leading three volunteer removal programs to remove and dispose of derelict crab traps, identifying and counting the animals that have been inadvertently caught by the traps, and monitoring the area to assess the removal efforts. For more information on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
Also working to remove marine debris from the Gulf of Mexico is the Galveston Bay Foundation. They are working to improve habitat and access to Galveston Bay by removing large debris items such as abandoned and derelict vessels from Chocolate Bayou, Texas. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
There are lots of cool things going on in the Gulf of Mexico! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Gulf and throughout the country!
We are excited to announce the release of Nature’s Academy’s Standards-Based Curriculum, which was created as part of their Science Literacy Project as part of an effort supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.
This curriculum incorporates lessons on marine debris into a broader investigation that helps students make the connection between the various parts of an aquatic ecosystem, as well as understand how people can impact such environments. It is designed to be used by fifth-grade teachers that are participating in the Nature’s Academy hands-on educational program in Florida. It outlines the specific standards that are covered by the included lessons, provides background information meant to best prepare students and teachers for participation in the field trip activities, and includes comprehensive lesson plans that utilize the Nature’s Academy Citizen Science Database.
Although this curriculum is aimed at students and teachers participating in the field trip program, the materials provided may prove to be a useful resource for many educators that are working to prevent marine debris through education and outreach.
Check out the curriculum on the NOAA Marine Debris Program website.
By: Kimberly Albins, Gulf of Mexico Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program
Cape San Blas, a remote area in Northwest Florida that sits about 45 miles east of Panama City, is home to prime sea turtle nesting habitat. Unfortunately, erosion in this area began to cause a large amount of marine debris to litter its shores. Old concrete buildings, fencing material, pilings, and many other forms of debris could be found scattered within sea turtle nesting areas.
In 2012, the University of Florida received funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant to remove these large debris items and assess the impact on sea turtles. To assess the impact of removing debris, observations were made on an experimental section of the beach where large debris had been removed. Recently, the project leads, Drs. Ikuko Fujisaki and Meg Lamont, published their findings from this assessment in the Journal of Experimental Marine Biology and Ecology (check out the abstract here). As presented in their paper, they found that removing debris increased sea turtle nests by 200%! While many have assumed that debris on a beach would inhibit the ability of a sea turtle to find the appropriate place to nest, this research allows us to say “here is the proof!”
As this study corroborates, sea turtles are particularly vulnerable to marine debris. They can ingest plastics, become entangled in debris such as derelict fishing gear, and we now know that their important nesting habitats are also impacted. It is unfortunately all too common for sea turtles to ingest plastic debris, and by working to remove debris and prevent more from occurring, we hope to change that.
Like all of our Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant projects, removal of debris was just one aspect of this effort, which also worked to engage and educate citizens. Through the excellent work of the project leads along with grad students, interns, and volunteers that helped remove debris and educate citizens on the impact of marine debris on “Florida’s Forgotten Coastline,” this project:
- removed 135.7 tons of large debris,
- cleaned 95.9 km of beach area,
- engaged 379 volunteers (donating 1,668 hours of time) in marine debris cleanups, and
- reached 643 people through outreach events and classroom activities.
Keeping our beaches clean of debris will help sea turtles to thrive! The NOAA Marine Debris Program supports lots of projects that work to clean our shores, prevent more debris through education, and learn more about the marine debris issue. Do your part by picking up after yourself (every day!), following the 3Rs (reduce, reuse, recycle), and by participating in beach cleanup events!
The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) is proud to announce the release of the new Incident Waterway Debris Response document for Florida. This guide takes existing roles and authorities, as they relate to response to an incident that generates large amounts of debris in coastal waterways, and presents them in one guidance document for easy reference. By collaborating with local, state, and federal entities active in the region, this guide aims to facilitate a more timely and effective response to waterway debris incidents in Florida.
Check out the Florida Response Guide on our website!
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 our Gulf of Mexico region.
The Pascagoula River is a waterway that winds its way through southeastern Mississippi and was the location of some pretty cool removal efforts back in 2010. The lower Pascagoula River unfortunately sees a lot of land-based marine debris from upriver sources, including foam from houseboats and docks, appliances, and consumer debris.
Coastal Rivers, with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, led the way in cleaning up this area by participating in or sponsoring a total of 64 cleanup days, removing debris (and recycling when possible!), and educating the community about marine debris by placing signs on boat ramps, participating in outreach events, and distributing reusable bags. Overall, this group removed a total of 54,300 pounds (that’s 27.15 tons) of debris! This included all sorts of debris items, including plastic and glass bottles (which were the most collected items) and over 150 refrigerators!
This project was completed in 2012, although there was (and is) still a long way to go before we see this area trash-free. However, Coastal Rivers ended their efforts with some wise words: “lf we believe the bad things done to our environment, no matter how small, have a cumulative effect, then surely the good things, no matter how small, also have a cumulative effect.” Each of the projects our partners have put their effort into has an effect on fighting marine debris. If we all made a small effort, think of the difference we could make!
For more on this project, check out the Marine Debris Clearinghouse.