NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Mid-Atlantic Region: Marine Debris Research

By: Leah Henry

The NOAA Marine Debris Program has been working to better understand the impacts of derelict fishing gear and other types of marine debris to our ocean and Great Lakes, here are a few of our Mid-Atlantic marine debris research efforts:

Smithsonian Environmental Research Center evaluates existing crab pot bycatch reduction technology, solicits technology feedback from local watermen, and creates a Chesapeake Bay-wide conversation to develop ghost pot solutions as part of a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Fishing for Energy program and with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.  To learn more about this project visit our website.

Virginia Institute of Marine Science employs commercial watermen to compare catch rates of peeler pots outfitted with biodegradable escape panels to those with standard panels as part of a grant from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation’s Fishing for Energy program and with funding from the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Preliminary results suggest no adverse effect of biodegradable panels on peeler pot crab catch. To learn more about this project visit our website.

Global Science & Technology Inc. contracts with the NOAA Marine Debris Program in partnership with Versar, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, and CSS-Dynamac to investigate the physical, biological, and socio-economic impacts of derelict fishing gear (DFG) in the Chesapeake Bay through a Regional Impact Assessment.  This project will develop an operational model, conduct a bay-wide impact assessment of derelict fishing gear, and create a framework guidance document for use in other regions. To learn more about this project visit our website.

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Southeast Region: Marine Debris Prevention

By: Leah Henry

These southeast marine debris prevention projects take on debris of all sizes, educate diverse audiences, and hope to stop debris at its source.

Project SORT – University of Georgia Marine Extension Service (UGA MAREX)

Project SORT hosted a rigorous four-day marine debris workshop filled with presentations and activities that the 20 participating educators can share with their classrooms. This project also provided 350 students with a unique, hands-on experience to learn about local environmental issues by participating in UGA MAREX-guided marine debris cleanups. Three clear column displays, filled with marine debris collected by those students, were also created and are now on display at the UGA Marine Education Center and Aquarium on Skidaway Island, the Georgia Sea Turtle Center on Jekyll Island, and the Tybee Island Marine Science Center to educate the public about local marine debris issues and prevention.

To learn more about this marine debris prevention project visit our website.

Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC)

FWC organizes marine debris cleanups, derelict trap removals, and has participated in 13 outreach and education events to-date. They will continue to provide derelict lobster and stone crab gear education materials for the public throughout 2015 and the suite of lobster biology and fishery history materials that FWC developed will be available on the Fish and Wildlife Research Institute’s website and shared widely through social media.

To learn more about this marine debris prevention project visit our website.

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Marine Debris Projects Help Preserve Sea Turtles

By: Leah Henry

In a continued celebration of sea turtles this week, we’re highlighting a long-term marine debris removal project that is bringing turtles back to the beaches of Florida and an outreach project that aims to prevent balloons from becoming debris. Unfortunately, turtles sometimes ingest the balloons or become entangled in the ribbon attachments.

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program and  Restoration Center support the Coastal Cleanup Corporation (CCC) in its effort to remove marine debris from sea turtle nesting habitat.

Bunch of balloons removed in Florida marine debris cleanup.

Bunch of balloons removed in Florida marine debris cleanup

In Elliott Key, Florida, CCC and its volunteers focus on removing plastics, glass, foam, rubber and discarded fishing gear that washes up on local beaches and interferes with female sea turtles’ journey from the ocean to their nesting sites. In one year, the volunteers and project leaders removed 3.39 tons of marine debris. This removal and restoration project provides long-term ecological improvements to coastal habitat used by endangered loggerhead and green sea turtles.

Virginia’s Coastal Zone Management Program (VA CZM) and the NOAA Marine Debris Program use social marketing to mitigate the impacts of balloon debris.

A juvenile Kemp's ridley sea turtle ingests balloon debris (Photo Credit: Blair Witherington FWC)

A juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle ingests balloon debris (Photo Credit: Blair Witherington FWC)

VA CZM at the Department of Environmental Quality designs a social marketing campaign to discourage balloon releases and encourage environmentally sensitive alternatives. By engaging and educating a wide variety of stakeholders, including event planners, funeral directors, car dealership employees, and sports team managers, we hope to reduce balloon litter in Virginia and protect the many different species affected by balloon debris, including the juvenile Kemp’s ridley sea turtle pictured above!

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Great Lakes Educators Workshop: Teaching Teachers about Marine Debris

By: Sarah Lowe and Leah Henry

Last week, the NOAA Marine Debris Program co-hosted the Great Lakes Marine Debris Educators Workshop with Ohio Sea Grant.

Educators from across the Great Lakes, and from all grade levels, experienced marine debris research first hand.  Participants trawled Lake Erie for plastics, conducted a marine debris cleanup, dissected fish, and participated in marine debris specific lessons and activities. Educators were given the opportunity to analyze the trawl samples, fish gill and stomach contents, as well as personal care products that contained microbeads under microscopes to see and experience the debris that impacts our local Great Lakes habitats and species.

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By pairing science-based education with other lessons and activities focused on local action and prevention of marine debris, participants can share the information they learned with their peers and engage students in the global importance of marine debris.

The workshop was held at The Ohio State University’s Stone Laboratory in Lake Erie.  Established in 1895, Stone Laboratory is the oldest freshwater biological field station in the United States and the center of Ohio State University’s teaching and research on Lake Erie. The lab serves as a base for more than 65 researchers from 12 agencies and academic institutions, all working year-round to solve the most pressing problems facing the Great Lakes, including marine debris.

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Are You Ready for Some Trash Talk?

Happy World Ocean Day!

Ocean Today, in partnership with the NOAA Marine Debris Program, presents TRASH TALK, a 15-minute special feature on marine debris for World Ocean Day. Learn about marine debris, where it comes from, and how you can help prevent the problem!

Check it out:

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National Fishing and Boating Week: An opportunity to prevent marine debris!

In celebration of National Fishing and Boating Week which begins today, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is sharing a few fishing gear-focused projects, partners, and papers. Wildlife can become trapped or entangled in fishing gear and this “derelict gear” (fishing line, nets, and pots) may continue to capture fish and other marine species while at sea but you can help.

We want you to have a successful and marine debris free week so we’ve included a handful of tips you can use while out enjoying the great outdoors (streams, rivers, lakes, and ocean).

crab entangled in derelict net

crab entangled in derelict net

When fishing, make an effort to:

– Retrieve line/gear when it is caught or tangled

– Find a fishing line recycling bin

– Ask local bait shops if recycling is available

– Dispose of fishing line properly


This may not seem like a big deal but fish, turtles, birds, and other wildlife can be spared an unpleasant encounter with fishing gear if you take the time to ensure its proper disposal.

A preventable problem with big impacts and simple solutions!

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Spotlight: How Our Partners Turn Net Loss into a Win for Wildlife

A few days ago, we highlighted derelict crab and lobster trap projects we’re supporting across the United States, in an effort to reduce “ghostfishing” and other impacts from derelict fishing gear.

But traps and pots aren’t the only kind of derelict fishing gear that causes problems – fishing nets can also entangle animals, damage habitat, and put vessels at risk for years after they’re lost in the ocean or Great Lakes.

Fortunately, groups all over the country are tackling derelict nets as well. The Marine Debris Program is supporting various net removal efforts, as well as education and outreach on how to prevent fishing net loss. For example, if you’re a recreational angler in the Great Lakes, do you know how to spot an active commercial gill net in the water in order to avoid running over it?

Here are a few recent derelict fishing net projects the NOAA Marine Debris Program is funding or supporting across the country!


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