NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Education: Marine Debris Resources (Grades: 8-12)

By: Leah Henry

For a flexible, stand-alone guide introducing the topic of marine debris to 8th through 12th graders look no further than Turning the Tide on Trash.

Our interdisciplinary education guide may also be used as a supplement to other subject area lessons. In ‘A Scientific Cleanup‘ we help students understand the effects of natural events and human influences on ecosystems. Students organize and conduct a cleanup of a local beach, lake, or stream and the lesson drives home the watershed connection; empowering students everywhere to investigate local litter solutions (Page 81 of Turning the Tide on Trash).

Additionally, The Educator’s Guide to Marine Debris (with a focus on the Southeast and Gulf of Mexico) used by both formal and informal educators, serves as a regional introduction to litter, abandoned and derelict vessels, and lost commercial and recreational fishing gear. These three marine debris issues are commonplace across many regions and the lessons in this guide may be adapted for a range of ages and locations. You can pair a lesson like ‘Speak Up and State Your Claim‘ (Page 30 of The Educator’s Guide to Marine Debris) with environmental, government, policy, or speech and debate lessons to provide a targeted topic that your students can research and discuss.

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Education: Marine Debris Resources (Grades: K-8)

By: Leah Henry

Keeping in mind that many of the activities and lessons for younger students need to be flexible and adaptable, we have a wide array of resources specific to Kindergarten age through the 8th grade level.

For the younger crowd there are: crafts, word finds & scrambles, a coloring book, and ‘Understanding Marine Debris: Games & Activities for Kids of All Ages.’

For the more advanced students, we have: educator guides, web-based curricula, and topic-based lessons with direct marine debris prevention actions and pledges designed in collaboration with educators, industry, universities, and non-governmental organizations.


NOAA Marine Debris Program Education Materials:

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NOAA Marine Debris Program Awards Funding to 13 New Education and Outreach Projects

The NOAA Marine Debris Program has awarded more than $675,000 in grants to 13 projects aimed at aiding coastal communities in their fight against marine debris, the agency announced today.

This is the third year program has awarded grants through its Marine Debris Prevention through Education and Outreach grant competition.

“Education and outreach are important pillars of our program and we look forward to working with the recipients to help reach even more people,” said Nancy Wallace, the program’s director. “Marine debris is preventable and by raising awareness and learning how to stop it at the source, we can help solve this problem.”

The program’s education and outreach partners across the country have inspired thousands to become better ocean stewards, and have carried the message that prevention is the key to solving the marine debris problem.

This year, partners will help prevent marine debris through encouraging behavior change, implementing new marine debris reduction and prevention activities, and conducting public outreach and education in their communities.

The recipients are:


  • Malama Learning Center, Hawaii ($42,000) to address marine debris issues in Hawaii through professional development training focused on healthy coastal and marine environments using experiential and hands-on inquiry methods, community outreach, restoration workdays and education at Piliokahe Beach Park on O‘ahu.
  • Clean Water Fund, California ($71,077) to prevent marine debris from food and beverage packaging used in the take-out food industry, focusing on eight communities in the San Francisco Bay area. The project will work with take-out food businesses and their customers and then measure how much marine trash is reduced.
  • Earth Team, California ($75,095) for an innovative anti-litter program for high schools in the San Francisco Bay area to reach as many as 12,000 students and raise awareness about marine debris problems and solutions and encourage behavior changes on and off campus, in peers, families and the general public.
  • The Northwest Straits Marine Foundation, Washington ($47,873) to reduce the effects of derelict fishing gear on marine species and habitats in Puget Sound,by preventing the loss of crab pots in the recreational crab fishery. The project will improve reports by commercial fishermen of nets lost during active fishing, and will educate recreational crabbers on how not to lose their pots.

Atlantic Coast

  • The National Aquarium, Maryland ($72,013), to work with local partners and advocates in the Masonville Cove region of Baltimore through community cleanups, leadership and education training.
  • University of North Carolina, Wilmington ($29,615) to educate elementary and middle school students in rural eastern North Carolina about migratory marine species, how marine debris affects marine organisms, and the origins of marine debris – including actions that students can take to reduce marine debris.
  • Gulf of Maine Lobster Foundation ($65,730) to enhance stewardship and prevent marine debris among public school teachers and students, non­profit environmental organizations, public university researchers, professional scientists and their institutions, and fishermen and industry throughout the Gulf of Maine. Students will learn about marine debris and attend a project summit to develop local action plans for their communities with marine debris prevention initiatives.
  • Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey ($57,853) to prevent derelict fishing gear and other marine debris from ending up in New Jersey coastal waters. Through recreational crab pot workshops, they will teach crabbers about local ghost pot removal and how to avoid adding to the ghost fishing problem.
  • The University of Hartford, Connecticut ($29,319) to introduce students to marine debris concerns, guide them in the process of collecting and tracing the life cycle of debris, and challenge them to use the data to contextualize policy alternatives and present them to their state legislators. Students will also participate in beach cleanups at shoreline sites.

Gulf of Mexico

  • Nature’s Academy Inc., Florida ($43,700) to improve students’ and teachers’ understanding of coastal ecology through experiential learning targeting elementary schools in Manatee County, Florida.
  • The University of Florida ($16,896) to train citizen-scientists to look for the presence of microplastics—pieces of plastic that are smaller than 5 millimeters—throughout Florida coastal waters through the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project. The goal is to have people make the connection between their actions and the environment by showing them how the plastics collected in local waterways are connected to human sources.
  • University of Texas-Pan American ($91,020) to develop and implement educational and outreach activities to stop debris from entering the Gulf of Mexico and South Texas coastal zone. The project will create educational programs for K-12 students, reach out to diverse audiences of coastal zone residents and beachgoers about the sources of marine debris, organize marine debris cleanups, create public service announcements, and engage the general public through social media and smartphone apps.

Great Lakes

  • City of Cleveland, Ohio ($32,860) to reduce plastic marine debris in Lake Erie. Using community-based social marketing, they will address barriers to the reduction of three common plastic marine debris items–grocery bags, water bottles and cigar tips.

Each year, the NOAA Marine Debris Program supports projects across the country that use outreach and education as a way to prevent marine debris. These projects aim to change behavior, especially among youth, and provide them with hands-on experiences that deepen their understanding of the marine debris problem. To learn more about current and past projects visit the program’s Marine Debris Clearinghouse.

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Back to School: Planning a Marine Debris Lesson with New Curriculum

By: Leah Henry

In need of new curriculum? Check out the web-based Marine Debris STEAMSS* (Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math, and Social Studies) curriculum developed by Oregon State University and funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program. It provides data to collect and analyze types of debris, addresses marine debris problems through engineering, uses technology and art to explore the problem, and is appropriate for 4th through 12th grade students.

Marine Debris STEAMSS Online Lessons

This free and teacher-tested marine debris education resource meets educational standards and the needs of educators and students.

To begin your marine debris lesson plan start here: OSU STEM Hub

*Please note that the curriculum will continue to be updated overtime.


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Back to School: Marine Debris Activities and Videos

By: Leah Henry

Welcome back your students to the classroom with new materials, fun activities, and marine debris related lessons. The NOAA Marine Debris Program provides free and downloadable marine debris resources to address a subject of critical interest to educators and students. You can build a lesson plan using marine debris activities and curricula this upcoming school year!

You can launch a lesson with a fun activity or video; watch the TRASH TALK Webinar for Educators to get started. This informative ten minute webinar provides fun activities that anyone can do. The video demonstrates hands-on activities one can easily organize after viewing a TALKING TRASH video. This pairing is perfect for museums, zoos, aquariums, learning centers and schools. Be sure to check the activities section beneath the video for written-guidance on activities and additional TRASH TALK videos.

Subscribe to our blog and stay tuned for marine debris education throughout the week!




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Marine debris efforts in California

By: NOAA Marine Debris Program staff

California spans 1,100 miles of coastline featuring diverse marine life and habitat. From the coastal mountains that stretch from the Oregon border south to Santa Barbara to the iconic sunny beaches of southern California, there’s something for everyone.

Marine debris in the region is as diverse as the local flora and fauna. From large amounts ​of ​consumer debris that wash ashore during the “First Flush”, the first post-summer rain storm that carries debris onto southern California’s beaches, to abandoned fishing gear that can impact marine species offshore, debris is no stranger to local residents and visitors. Through research, removal​,​ and prevention projects, the NOAA Marine Debris Program works with local partners to keep coastal waters clean and better understand its impacts ​on the marine environment.

Learn more about all the program’s efforts in the state by visiting our California regional page.


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Northeast Region: Derelict Fishing Gear

By: Keith Cialino and Leah Henry

Ghost fishing occurs when lost or discarded fishing gear, that is no longer under a fisherman’s control, continues to trap and kill fish, crustaceans, marine mammals, sea turtles, and seabirds. Derelict fishing nets and traps can continue to ghost fish for years after they are lost. Every year marine species, from lobsters and fish to sea lions and birds, become trapped or entangled in lost, abandoned or discarded fishing gear. Fishing for Energy works to prevent those impacts.

In 2014, the Fishing for Energy partnership successfully diverted 328,580 pounds of gear at 11 bin locations located within the Northeast region. 

 Map of Fishing for Energy bin locations in the Northeast (Photo Credit: NFWF)

Map of Fishing for Energy bin locations in the Northeast (Photo Credit: NFWF)

Fishing for Energy is a partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Covanta Energy Corporation (link is external), National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (link is external) (NFWF), and Schnitzer Steel Industries (link is external), to prevent and reduce the impacts of derelict fishing gear in the marine environment. The program provides the fishing community no-cost options for disposing of old or unwanted gear, nets, line, and rope and together Fishing for Energy partners convert that gear into energy.

Since 2008, the Fishing for Energy partnership has provided collection bins at 37 participating ports in nine states, drawing over 2.8 million pounds of fishing gear. Gear collected at the ports is first sorted at Schnitzer Steel for metals recycling, and the remaining non-recyclable material is converted into energy at Covanta Energy locations. Approximately one ton of derelict nets equals enough electricity to power one home for 25 days.

Additionally, the NOAA Marine Debris Program released its Ghost Fishing Report earlier this year to provide a summary of the current scientific knowledge on the topic.

Find out more about Marine Debris efforts in the Northeast at


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