NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!


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Marine Debris in the Pacific Islands

Picture of Mark Manuel.Meet Mark Manuel, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s (MDP’s) Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator! Mark is a Hawaii native, and received his B.S. in Marine Science and M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Before joining the MDP, Mark spent six years with the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Coral Reef Ecosystem Program. He now works in Honolulu, where he oversees marine debris removal and research projects, the Hawai‘i Nets-to-Energy program, and the NOAA Observer Program at-sea marine debris encounter reports. Mark also works with the Consulate of Japan to confirm tsunami marine debris, is part of numerous emergency response networks, and communicates with the U.S. Coast Guard and state agencies to address Abandoned and Derelict Vessels. Reach out to Mark at mark.manuel@noaa.gov!

Picture of Grace Chon.Meet Grace Chon, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Pacific Islands Assistant Regional Coordinator! Grace was born and raised in Maryland and received her B.S. in Biology at the University of Maryland, College Park. After graduating and living in Venezuela for a year, she headed to Hawai’i Pacific University, where she earned her M.S. in Marine Science. As the Assistant Regional Coordinator, Grace now works in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she focuses on marine debris prevention projects, Hawai’i Marine Debris Action Plan activities, regional outreach efforts, and coordination in the territories. Reach out to Grace at grace.chon@noaa.gov!

 

The Pacific Islands are full of sun, sand, and unfortunately… marine debris. Like many other coastal areas, the Pacific Islands are not immune to the impacts of marine debris. Due to the Pacific Islands’ position in the Pacific Ocean and in relation to the North Pacific Gyre and ocean currents, they are often inundated with debris from both local and far-off sources. Luckily, there are many great efforts underway to address and prevent marine debris in this area. Check out a couple newly-established projects funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program:

Preventing marine debris is the ultimate solution to the problem, so Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) is working to do just that! They’ve launched a public awareness campaign focused on tobacco-free beaches in Maui, Hawaii. To get the word out, they’re creating public service announcements, developing handouts and outreach materials, and giving presentations. PWF is also hosting an art contest to promote marine debris outreach and education. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

Unfortunately, there’s enough marine debris out there that we also must work on removing it. To help clean our shores, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund is leading an effort to remove as much debris as possible from over 200 miles of coastline on four different islands in Hawaii! Engaging hundreds of volunteers, they aim to remove approximately 55 metric tons (about 120,000 pounds) of marine debris! For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

A group of people on a beach.

Volunteers at Kamilo Point participated in the International Coastal Cleanup event in Sept 2016 and helped to remove 1.71 metric tons (3,765 pounds) of marine debris from a 1km stretch of coastline on Hawai‘i Island. (Photo Credit: Dr. Drew Kapp, HWF)

There are lots of cool things going on in the Pacific Islands! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Pacific Islands and throughout the country!


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Tackling Marine Debris in the Gulf of Mexico

Photo of Caitlin Wessel.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 caitlin.wessel@noaa.gov!

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.

Graphic of a sea turtle taking a bite of a bottle and a photo of a bottle with turtle bites taken out.

This project is focusing on educating the Lower Laguna Madre community about the impacts of debris on marine life, such as the ingestion of debris. In the photo on the right, you can clearly see sea turtle bites taken out of a plastic bottle. (Photo Credit: NOAA (left) and Sea Turtle, Inc. (right))

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.

A group of students on a pier.

Ship Island Excursions is educating students, teachers, and community members in coastal Mississippi. (Photo Credit: Ship Island Excursions)

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.

Derelict vessels partially submerged in water.

The Galveston Bay Foundation is working to remove large debris items from Galveston Bay, Texas. (Photo Credit: Galveston Bay Foundation)

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!


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Marine Debris Efforts Around the Country

We’ve spent the last year highlighting marine debris projects in various regions of the country. However, the NOAA Marine Debris Program also supports efforts that are national in scope. Check out some of the national projects that are currently underway:

The BoatU.S. Foundation is working to remove debris in both the Mid-Atlantic and Great Lakes regions. With support from a NOAA Marine Debris Program Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant, they are working with two TowBoatU.S. towing and salvage partners to remove two large nets in Ocean City, Maryland, and to remove a derelict vessel in Lake Erie. They’re also assessing the impacts of some of this debris, as well as monitoring the effects of the removal. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

Pictures of derelict nets on a boat.

The BoatU.S. Foundation removed two derelict nets from Ocean City, MD as part of their project. (Photo Credit: Rick Younger)

The BoatU.S. Foundation is also working on preventing marine debris through a project supported by the Fishing for Energy program. Fishing for Energy is a partnership between the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Covanta, and Schnitzer Steel Industries, and administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation. With this support, the BoatU.S. Foundation is working to prevent derelict fishing gear by developing a national education and outreach program to teach recreational boaters how to avoid set fishing gear. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

A close-up of derelict nets and ropes.

The BoatU.S. Foundation’s project through the Fishing for Energy program is working to prevent derelict fishing gear. (Photo Credit: NOAA)

Another Fishing for Energy-supported project is being run by the National Sea Grant Law Center at the University of Mississippi. This project is working to assess innovative methods for addressing derelict fishing gear from around the country, to determine if these methods could be implemented in other areas. They’re also working to identify opportunities to prevent gear loss due to interactions with passing vessels. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

A close-up of derelict crab pots.

The Fishing for Energy project with the National Sea Grant Law Center is working to assess derelict fishing gear programs. (Photo Credit: G. Bradt, NH Sea Grant)

Keep your eye on our blog as we continue to highlight marine debris projects from around the country throughout the year!


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The Removal of the F/V Western

By: Nir Barnea, Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program

On December 21st, the F/V Western was pulled out of the water near the Empire Dock in Coos Bay, Oregon. The sunken vessel was brought to land and later disposed of, thus ending a long journey that started 82 years earlier. Unlike some abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs), we know a lot about the F/V Western’s history thanks to Toni Mirosevich, a Professor at San Francisco State University and the daughter of Anthony Mirosevich, the captain and owner of the F/V Western for twenty years.

In 1934, when the world was gripped by the Great Depression, a graceful, wood hulled, 69-foot long boat was launched in Tacoma, Washington. The vessel was purchased by the Mirosevich family from Everett, WA in 1945, named Western Maid, and set sail for salmon fishing in Alaska. In 1965, after Anthony Mirosevich passed away, his family sold the boat. At some point, it was converted to a crab fishing vessel and its name was changed to Western.

Over the years the boat’s condition deteriorated. It sank twice– once in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, and the second time near Coos Bay, OR. In both instances, it was raised and given a new life. In 2015, the boat sank for the third and last time, adjacent to the Empire Dock in Coos Bay. It was located near a shipping lane and in an environmentally-sensitive area, so the F/V Western had to be removed to prevent additional environmental harm. The Oregon State Marine Board led the removal project, in collaboration with the Oregon Department of State Land and the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Billeter Marine, a local marine salvage contractor, conducted the removal.

The story of the F/V Western is unique, but not unusual. Boats, long past their prime, eventually sink, and their removal is challenging and costly. As part of the project, and to facilitate prevention of ADVs in Oregon, the Oregon State Marine Board in collaboration with Oregon Sea Grant initiated the ADV Task Force. The Task Force brings together many partners including port and marina managers, vessel owners, and fishermen to identify strategies to prevent commercial fishing vessels from becoming large and expensive pieces of marine debris. The ADV Task Force will draft a report that includes the group’s process, challenges, options for prevention, and recommendations. In addition, this project is creating an inventory of commercial fishing vessels along the Oregon coast that need to be removed. Using a matrix developed by the Columbia River Derelict Vessel Task Force, the inventory will include vessel location, ownership information, history, and condition to facilitate ADV removal in Oregon.

Hopefully the enduring legacy of the F/V Western will be the long-lasting benefits that the ADV Task Force will provide to Oregon and possibly to other states who face the persistent challenge of abandoned and derelict vessels.

For more information on this removal project, check out the project profile on the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s website.


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Sea Kayak Marine Debris Cleanup: Restoring Wilderness Shorelines in the Gulf of Alaska

By: Tom Pogson, Guest Blogger and Director of Education, Outreach, and Marine Programs for Island Trails Network

Even though Shuyak Island State Park is a remote wilderness island in the northern Gulf of Alaska, it has been heavily impacted by marine debris. Through a community-based removal grant project funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Island Trails Network (ITN) led 29 volunteers from June 12th to September 4th of this year to help remove marine debris in this area. There were six teams of five to seven sea paddlers, which each spent two weeks camping and collecting debris to restore coastal habitats on Shuyak. During 56 total days of cleanup, we collected 35,036 pounds of marine debris from a continuous belt of coastal habitat (52 miles in length) along the island’s northwest shore. Cleanup teams moved freely along the coast in sea kayaks, which were a convenient means of accessing shallow rocky shorelines.

Most of the debris we collected was made of plastic and was related to marine trades such as commercial fishing and shipping. Dominant items included nets and line, floats and buoys, fish crates, and polystyrene/polyurethane floats and pieces. A wide variety of personal and household items were also represented, including plastic jugs and buckets, water and drink bottles, personal hygiene items, crates, toothbrushes, and shoes. Plastic wads from shotgun shells were also common, as were pieces of plastic “film” (such as plastic bags).

Although we found marine debris on all sampled shorelines, we noticed a striking geographic pattern in the distribution of debris. Protected bays and inlets were the least littered with debris, with 50 to 1,000 pounds of marine debris observed per nautical mile. The shorelines of tidal channels that were exposed to wind and waves and exposed outer coast beaches had greater amounts of debris, with 1,001 to 3,400 pounds of debris found per nautical mile. The distribution of debris volume showed a similar pattern, with the greatest volume found on exposed outer coast beaches (10 to 16 cubic yards per nautical mile). Protected shorelines and tidal channels were more heavily contaminated with nets and line than expected, and their removal was time consuming, which greatly slowed the progress of the cleanup along the coast.

A map of how many super sacks of debris were found in certain locations around Shuyak Island.

We noticed a striking geographic pattern in the distribution of marine debris on Shuyak shores. Here you can see the number of “super sacks” collected in each location. (Photo Credit: Tom Pogson, Island Trails Network)

In September, we removed all the debris we collected over the summer using a specialized 21-foot skiff and an 80-foot charter vessel, which then delivered the debris to Kodiak Island for storage and eventual disposal. To bring the project to its conclusion, ITN staff and volunteers will sort and characterize the debris to provide data for a public outreach campaign to reduce marine debris in the Gulf of Alaska.

For more information on this project, check out the project profile on the NOAA Marine Debris Program website, the Marine Debris Clearinghouse, or contact tom@islandtrails.org


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Deadline Extended: FY17 Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant Opportunity

The deadline for the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s 2017 “Community-based Marine Debris Removal” federal funding opportunity has been extended due to disruption from Hurricane Matthew affecting many of our potential applicants. The new deadline is Thursday, October 202016.

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 Grants.gov.

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


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Removing Marine Debris in Alaska

Although preventing marine debris is the ultimate solution, removing debris as it accumulates on our shores is an unfortunate necessity. In Alaska, there are currently some pretty cool removal efforts underway to clean up Alaska’s coasts, which are often remote and difficult to access.

The Island Trails Network (ITN) is addressing the issue of debris in remote areas in an innovative and unique way! This effort focuses on Shuyak Island, an area rich in biodiversity that’s located in the western Gulf of Alaska. This location is exposed to high winds and strong currents that cause marine debris to build up, but also make it difficult to access. To solve this problem, ITN recruited qualified volunteers from around the world to come to Alaska and clean the shoreline using sea kayaks, collecting debris and moving it to more easily-accessible areas, where it is later removed and analyzed. Learn more about this project here.

In communities across the Bering Sea, another removal effort is underway. The Sitka Sound Science Center is working with local communities to remove large accumulations of marine debris from critical areas in remote Alaskan locations. Working to restore habitat and prevent harmful wildlife interactions, they’re removing debris and assessing its composition, accumulation rate, and sources. Learn more about this project here.

There are lots of cool things going on in Alaska! Keep your eyes on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in Alaska and throughout the country!