NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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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.


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Is Beach Litter Rerouting Your Summer Vacation?

MD-econ_graphic_1 (1)Debris on beaches is unsightly! And like the residents in the NOAA Marine Debris Program-funded economics study in Orange County, California, you too might be deterred by beaches with high levels of marine debris and that concern may influence which beaches you visit. In this study, led by Industrial Economics Inc., we discover how marine debris influences decisions to go to the beach and what it may cost.

Southern California residents lose millions of dollars each year avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away. By reducing marine debris by 25 percent at beaches in and near California’s Orange County could save residents roughly $32 million over three summer months by decreasing travel distances to enjoy the beach. Reducing marine debris on beaches can prevent financial loss and provide economic benefits to residents and given the enormous popularity of beach recreation throughout the United States, the magnitude of recreational economic losses associated with marine debris has the potential to be substantial.

For more information and to download the study, please visit our website. 

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DIY Tank Top-to-Tote for Summer Break

What is marine debris?  Well, you may not immediately think of them, but clothes and textiles can become marine debris if we don’t dispose of them properly or reuse them in some way. Here is an easy idea for re-purposing your clothes.

Take an old tank top, turn it inside-out, sew the bottom shut and you have a handy tote or beach bag. Now find your needle and thread to join us in preventing marine debris through arts & crafts!


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Microplastics Found in Chesapeake Bay Surface Water Samples

By: Leah Henry

In partnership with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Oxford Labthe NOAA Marine Debris Program collected surface water samples from four tributaries of the Chesapeake Bay, using the techniques described in the document, “Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment: Recommendations for Monitoring Debris Trends in the Marine Environment,” and found microplastics in 59 of 60 samples.

Though the impacts of these tiny plastic particles (smaller than 5.0 mm in size) on wildlife and the environment is unknown, many ongoing studies are hoping to soon answer those important questions.

University of Maryland Professor Dr. Lance Yonkos was not surprised by what they found in the bay. As the lead author of this study, Yonkos’ take home message is one of prevention, “If we want to reduce microplastics in the oceans we need to limit their release at the source.” Find out more from the Photo Essay: Microplastics in the Chesapeake Bay.

All Photos by Will Parson, courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program.

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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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