NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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DIY Tank Top-to-Tote for Spring Break

By: Dianna Parker and Asma Mahdi

Clothes and textiles can become marine debris, too, if we don’t dispose of them properly or reuse them in some way. We’re reminded of a story from 2010 where researchers in Seattle found a beached whale in with its stomach full of plastics, other random pieces of trash, and… a pair of sweatpants. That’s right: a pair of pants made it into a whale’s stomach while it was trying to feed.

With spring break happening at schools across the country, there’s an opportunity for crafty Do-It-Yourself students who are hitting the beach to reuse old clothes and keep them out of the ocean. Here’s a quick and fun idea for reusing old tank tops: turn them into beach bags! Just turn it inside out and sew the bottom shut.

Get in the reduce, reuse, recycle, and repurpose spirit with us this spring break season!

beach day-02 (2)



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Extreme Cleanup!

By: Sherry Lippiatt

Once a month, a group of dedicated, energetic, and fit volunteers heads to Panther Beach in Santa Cruz County, CA for a strenuous beach cleanup with Marine Debris Program partner Save Our Shores. To get down to the beach, volunteers navigate to the bottom of a steep cliff via a rugged trail – typically, they arrive to find the remnants of illegal camping activities. It’s an extreme cleanup, to say the least!

Unfortunately, by not heeding the “Pack It In, Pack It Out” mantra, weekend campers and partiers that come to enjoy the beach aren’t leaving it as clean as when they arrived. The numbers are pretty shocking – in 2014 alone, with support from the NOAA MDP and other sponsors, Save Our Shores volunteers hauled a whopping 5,105 pounds of beer bottles, broken camping equipment, and other debris off the beach and back up the cliffs for proper disposal.

Rachel Kippen, Save Our Shores Program Manager reflected on the project: “For me personally, I think our biggest success with the project was the awareness it created and the continued excitement it generated. When we launched the Panther cleanups, it immediately brought attention to a beloved beach off the beaten path that many people did not realize had a trash issue… We know that a project is successful when we can see a domino effect like the one Panther created. Our volunteers engaged with new volunteers and now we have groups organizing their own outreach and cleanup campaigns at Panther. Whole Foods, UCSC Sea Slugs and even alternative spring break groups are all examples of this and we will work with them through 2015 and beyond!”

The University of California, Santa Cruz “Sea Slugs” group plans to continue cleanups with Save Our Shores. According to Kimberly Marks, UCSC Sea Slug member, “We chose to adopt Panther because we saw how trashed the beach was every weekend in the summer and it felt tragic to a lot of us. We know that many of the people who are abusing the beach by partying and leaving a mess behind are our age, they could even be people we know. That is not what we represent, we care for this beautiful environment and so many members of our club love going to the beach at Panther. People see that we are picking up trash and they thank us. Even though we can feel sad about removing so much waste at Panther, we know the beach needs us and that keeps everyone coming back to help.”

There is no doubt that Panther and other Santa Cruz beaches are in better condition today thanks to the stellar leadership and coordination from Save Our Shores and the support and efforts of their volunteers. There are many sources and pathways for marine debris to make it to the beach, but direct littering and illegal dumping are the most egregious. Whether you’re at the beach, on the water, or on the sidewalk, take responsibility for the waste you create and “leave no trace”.

If you live near Santa Cruz, check out Save Our Shores’ cleanup calendar and sign up to help out!

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How Do We Measure Marine Debris Baselines? Survey Says!

By: Dianna Parker

How do scientists know how much marine debris accumulates on a beach or if efforts to prevent it are working?

Survey Says!…


Shoreline monitoring and assessment! It’s how we get a baseline of what marine debris is out there, as well as measure change and establish trends.

In spirit of the National Ocean Service’s week-long celebration of the surveys we rely on every day, let’s take a look our monitoring lead Sherry Lippiatt’s overview of the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s monitoring and assessment project.

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Lucky Tips for Going Green on Saint Patrick’s Day

By: Marine Debris Program staff

We’ve pulled together a few lucky tips for you to Go Green this Saint Patrick’s Day:

  1. Check “going green” resolutions of New Years’ past and take steps to make those a reality, whether that be ‘try composting’ or ‘always bring reusable bags to the market.’
  2. Don’t forget to recycle anything you cannot re-purpose. (Be creative, challenge yourself to reuse it before you toss it in the bin.)
  3. Spring Cleaning: Don’t get swept up in ‘out with the old and in with the new.’
    • Use an old rag or t-shirt to wipe and dust around the house.
    • Donate clothes rather than tossing them in the trash.

Ask questions: Where will what you buy eventually land? If an item will wind up in the trash, is there an alternative?

Happy Green Saint Patrick’s Day from the Marine Debris Program!


Drawing by A. Reyes from Florida (2011)

Drawing by A. Reyes from Florida (2011)

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New Funding Opportunity for Derelict Fishing Gear Prevention Strategies

Fishing for Energy has a new funding opportunity available to support outreach and prevention strategies to reduce the impacts of derelict fishing gear to marine and coastal environments. The deadline for full proposals is Thursday, April 23, 2015.

Fishing for Energy launched in 2008 through a partnership among Covanta, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, NOAA Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel. Its goals are to provide a cost-free solution to fishermen to dispose of old, derelict or unusable fishing gear and to reduce the amount of derelict fishing gear in and around our coastal waterways. The Fishing for Energy partners recognize that while derelict gear removal and disposal is a critical effort to reduce the threat of entanglement, entrapment and habitat scarring from marine debris, the real conservation gains are to be made in prevention of the threat, which is the focus of this request for proposals. 

Read more about the request for proposals.

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Building Bins: Fishing Line Recycling in Ohio

By: Sarah Lowe

In the Great Lakes, fishing line is an entanglement hazard for wildlife.  This is especially true in areas such as the Maumee River in Ohio.  Each spring, thousands of fishermen brave the cooler temperatures to catch walleye (a popular recreational species of freshwater fish found in northern waters of the U.S.), which are migrating up from Lake Erie to spawn in the river.  Given the amount of line being used during this time, there is a large amount lost or discarded improperly.

In order to tackle this issue, the NOAA Marine Debris Program has provided support to Partners for Clean Streams (PCS), a local non-profit in Toledo, OH, to build and distribute mono-filament fishing line recycling bins. On February 18, I assisted PCS staff and volunteers in building 20 bins!  As part of the BoatUS Foundation Reel In and Recycle Program, these bins are created to allow fishermen an opportunity to recycle fishing line.  Once collected, the line is shipped to the Berkley Conservation Institute and repurposed into more line or other fishing products such as tackle boxes.  Look for a bin the next time you go fishing!

This project, like many in the region, are being highlighted to congressional staff as part of the Great Lakes Day this week in Washington, D.C. Great Lakes Day is an annual event hosted by the Great Lakes Commission and the Northeast-Midwest Institute to educate and convey a unified message to Congress on priorities for the region.

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Aboard the transoceanic invasive species mobile

NOAA Marine Debris Program:

It’s Invasive Species Awareness Week, and did you know that there’s the potential for invasive species to spread by hitching a ride on marine debris? A floating net, buoy, plastic container, or other piece of marine debris can harbor algae, mollusks, barnacles, crabs, or other species and transport them across the ocean to regions where they’re non-native. If the species is invasive, it can do serious damage to the ecosystem where the debris lands.

In some cases, natural disasters introduce items into the open ocean from coastal zones, such as small boats, floating docks and aquaculture gear (nets, cages, floats), that have been colonized by intertidal and shallow water organisms. After the 2011 tsunami in Japan, NOAA and its state partners focused on the potential for marine debris generated by the tsunami to bring non-native species to U.S shorelines.

Rebeka Ryvola, a Research Associate at the Ecologic Institute, described for us in this post how invasive species can be bad news for biodiversity. Take a look.

Marine organisms attach to chunks of trash like foamed plastic. Credit: Lindsey Hoshaw


Originally posted on NOAA's Marine Debris Blog:

By guest blogger Rebeka Ryvola, Ecologic Institute

When introduced into new environments, invasive species can be a major problem.  Invasives – species living in a certain area where they don’t belong – can harm the native species present or out-survive them and cause dramatic ecosystem changes. The changes are usually for the worse.

Humans are often unwittingly instrumental in helping these species infiltrate new territories, and we’re finding more and more evidence that marine debris is a culprit.

Invasive species stage their “invasions” in a number of ways. They can float through the air, travel by water currents, or cling to migrating animals. On land, species such as insects and plants can hitchhike by lurking in suitcases, in and on cars, on bicycles, and even on your clothing. Oceanic species – such as barnacles, mollusks, algae, and fish – can attach themselves to boats or stow away in ship ballast…

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