NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Declare Independence from Debris this Fourth of July!

By: Asma Mahdi

Photo credit: Anita Ritenour/ Flickr

Fourth of July fireworks from Pismo Beach, California.

The Fourth of July is just around the corner and that means it’s time to celebrate! As we think about Independence Day, let’s also think about how we can give our ocean independence from marine debris!

When you plan your festivities this year, take some of these tips into consideration:

Have a fun, safe, and clean Fourth of July!

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Mid-Atlantic Region: Marine Debris Prevention

By: Leah Henry

Alice Ferguson Foundation (AFF) helps youth and teenagers, a typically high-risk littering audience, understand the marine debris problem and their impact on it, so they are less likely to litter and more inclined to dispose of trash properly. AFF educates students and empowers them to become environmental stewards and urges everyone to ‘Take control. Take care of your trash’. To find out more about this project visit our website.

Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program Department of Environmental Quality addresses a specific entanglement and ingestion issue by investigating balloon debris and the underlying motivations for balloon releases. By studying the behavior behind balloon releases and designing a social marketing campaign to encourage more environmentally sensitive alternatives, they hope to prevent potential harm from balloon-debris to wildlife and the environment. To learn more about this project visit our website.

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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 Removal

By: Leah Henry

We have been working on several marine debris projects to remove debris and better understand some of the effects it has on our coastal systems. Here are a few recent projects from the southeast region:

North Carolina Coastal Federation removes derelict crab pots and re-purposes them to create oyster habitat and revitalize an economically essential fishery.

Checkout NCCF’s crab pot removal project video improves the quality of Palm Beach County’s estuarine, coastal, and near-shore marine ecosystems through derelict and sunken boat removal.

South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium removes derelict vessels and other marine debris using community-based collaboration.

To learn more about NOAA Marine Debris Program removal projects visit our website.

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Southeast Region: Marine Debris Research

By: Leah Henry

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources tests the effectiveness of different float configurations to reduce or prevent derelict crab traps. Recovered crab traps will be used to create oyster reef habitat that will promote new reef development.

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

This project is part of a Fishing for Energy gear innovation grant, administered by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation and funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

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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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