NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Now Open: FY16 Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant Opportunity

By: NOAA Marine Debris Program staff

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 prevention, 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, prioritizing medium to large-scale debris, including derelict fishing gear. To apply for this grant opportunity, visit

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


Barge Carrying Debris Arrives in Seattle After Removal Efforts

By: Peter Murphy

SEATTLE, WASHINGTON — a football-field sized barge carrying nearly 3,400 super-sacks of marine debris from remote and rugged beaches from Alaska and British Columbia docked at the Waste Management facility in Seattle, Washington, Thursday morning.

The Concept

The Concept

The barge traveled thousands of miles from Seattle up to Alaska before its return. Its arrival this week marked the culmination of debris removal efforts across the marine debris community in Alaska for the past several years, coordinated by Gulf of Alaska Keeper and funded in large part by a generous goodwill gift from the Government of Japan administered by NOAA and the State of Alaska.

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A diverse team including participants from the National Park Service, non-profit organizations, professional crews, and volunteers from across the state collaborated to collect the debris.  The debris, which was placed into large plastic bags called super-sacks, or tied into bundles, included everything from nets, lines and buoys to consumer plastics and different kinds of foam, including a significant amount of Japan tsunami marine debris. Over the course of the three weeks, from the barge’s first pickup to its arrival in Seattle, helicopters made 1,154 trips from shore to the boat, delivering enough debris to fill nearly 40 rail cars to the brim.

The marine debris issue in Alaska provides unique challenges. It takes innovation and perseverance from the community that works there to meet those challenges and address the issue.  That community includes Gulf of Alaska Keeper, who has been working on this issue for years and was the driving force behind this project, and many others, from Craig and Sitka in Southeast Alaska, all the way to the Arctic, where the National Park Service and communities are working to assess and remove debris.

As we recognize the accomplishment of the barge/airlift project, we also look forward to sharing more of these stories from the marine debris community in Alaska and how they are tackling the issue in different and innovative ways in and through their own communities.

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Throwback Thursday to Talking Trash

By: NOAA Marine Debris Program staff

Today’s throwback Thursday is one for inquiring minds that wonder, “What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?”

Watch and listen as we have a little “Trash Talk” to help explain:

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Marine Debris: In Your Region

By: Leah Henry

When you think of marine debris or ocean litter, is the first thing that comes to mind post-consumer waste,  lost fishing gear, or maybe abandoned and derelict vessels? The NOAA Marine Debris Program understands that issues and interest surrounding marine debris varies from region to region.

To learn more about current region and state specific marine debris projects and activities, click on In Your Region within our recently updated NOAA Marine Debris Program website ( and pick a region on the interactive map.

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West Coast Region: Marine Debris Prevention

By: Asma Mahdi

Education and outreach are at the core of marine debris prevention. On the west coast, we’ve funded projects that educate local communities and reach thousands of K-12 students to stop the problem at the source. Marine debris starts with us. If we are accountable for our actions, we can all help prevent trash from reaching our ocean.

Here are highlights from our current projects:

Santa Barbara Museum of Natural History educated the local community and students on how they can prevent trash from reaching the ocean. Marine Debris, the Ocean, & Me focuses on teaching that debris moves through the watershed and into marine environments, with particular attention to litter found around the outflow of Mission Creek Lagoon in Santa Barbara.

Through art and science, the Washed Ashore Project will help educate students and teachers on marine debris across the nation. By participating in hands on activities such as beach cleanups, interactive lesson plans, and creating and experiencing marine debris art sculptures, project participants will experience and come away with a better understanding of how the issue impacts daily lives and critical resources.

Feiro Marine Life Center and Washington CoastSavers have launched a program called Education and Action: A One-Two Punch for Reducing Marine Debris on the Washington Coast. The two-pronged program focuses education efforts in coastal communities and elementary schools through classroom activities and field studies at local beaches, as well as action through beach cleanups and visits to an aquarium.

Oregon State University and partners have paired with the NOAA Marine Debris Program  to create a comprehensive marine debris curriculum that immerses 4th-12th grade students in project-based learning and citizen science activities using an integrated curriculum.

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West Coast Region: Marine Debris Removal

A derelict net is pulled out of the Puget Sound. Credt: Northwest Straits Initiative

By: Asma Mahdi

Marine debris removal efforts are crucial to help protect habitat, prevent entanglements and ghostfishing of marine life, and improve navigation safety.

For more than a decade, the Northwest Straits Initiative, supported by NOAA, state agencies, and many others, has removed lost and abandoned fishing nets from the inland ocean waters of Puget Sound. More than 5,000 derelict nets have been removed from the Sound’s waters to date. To learn more about this project, visit our site.

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West Coast Region: Marine Debris Research

By: Asma Mahdi

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is pioneering new research in the field of microplastics and looking at new design technologies for crab pots along the west coast region of the country. Here are a couple of projects that are currently taking place:

At the University of California, Davis, researchers  are investigating whether microplastic debris is toxic to marine organisms and if toxic impacts can move through the food chain. The study will also look at impacts on the health and survival of the animals exposed to different types of microplastics with and without polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs.  The manufacturing of PCBs stopped in the United States in 1977 because of evidence that they build up in the environment and cause harmful health effects. Because they do not break down easily, PCBs are now found widely distributed in our environment and the chemical properties of PCBs cause them to be concentrated up the food chain.

In the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest Straits Foundation is testing five different Dungeness crab pot designs used in the Puget Sound to determine which one has the best escapement rate. Some traps use cotton rot cords that are designed to disintegrate over time and allow the crabs to crawl out, but it doesn’t always work. The group estimates that over 30,000 crabs are killed each year in derelict pots with designs that prevent escape.