NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

Keepin' the Sea Free of Debris!

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Diving into Ka Lae: A Small Nonprofit Receives International Cleanup Help on Hawaiʻi Island

By: Megan Lamson, Guest Blogger and Coordinator of the Hawaiʻi Island Marine Debris Removal Project for the Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund

At the bottom of South Point Road in Kamaʻoa (Kaʻū district, SE Hawaiʻi) lies a well-known rocky shoreline named Ka Lae, translated from Hawaiian to mean point, promontory, or wisdom. The cliffs at Ka Lae (a.k.a. “South Point”) are internationally celebrated as the southernmost tip of the United States, domestically recognized as a National Historic Landmark, and are locally renowned for fishing and cliff jumping. Visitors and island residents alike flock to this rugged coastline for the opportunity to take a photo or to leap into the deep blue below. Unfortunately, this region is also a hub for the accumulation of marine debris.

In June, with support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Hawaiʻi Wildlife Fund (HWF, hosted its first-ever underwater cleanup event at this locale. With help from divers with the Sea Beautification Society (SBS) from Japan and a volunteer interpreter from Canada, this cleanup turned out to be a complete success. A dozen scuba divers were joined by 3 free-divers and 8 shoreline support volunteers. In total, the 23 participants were able to remove 157 pounds (71 kg) of marine debris, most of which was monofilament fishing line that was encrusted with invasive algae. This collaboration was first conceived when HWF linked up with SBS at an international Japan tsunami debris symposium hosted by JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network) in Vancouver in October 2014. It is yet another reminder of how connected we all are, and how we can work together to take care of our planet.

HWF has been working to conserve native wildlife in Hawaiʻi since 1996 and removing marine debris from the shores of Hawaiʻi Island since 2003. During this time, HWF has hosted nearly 100 cleanup events and collectively removed over 161 metric tons (or 356,000 lbs.) of debris from Hawaiʻi Island with the help of thousands of community and visiting volunteers. This debris typically comes from faraway places on the Pacific Rim, such as the West coast of the U.S. and several countries in Asia; however, regardless of where it originates, it continues to be a threat to marine wildlife until it is removed from the marine and coastal environment. Marine debris is a people problem and HWF is committed to working with people on the island and around the globe to resolve this issue.

To get involved, donate, or find out more, please contact HWF at or call their marine debris reporting hotline at (808) 769-7629.

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Volunteer to Clear Marine Debris!

By: Asma Mahdi


The ocean makes up more than 70 percent of planet Earth. It provides more than half the world’s oxygen. And, it feeds our ever growing population. Our ocean planet gives so much to help us survive every day, and it’s time for us to return the favor. This week, volunteer to give back to the ocean and help stop one of the largest problems it faces today – marine debris.

It starts with us! National Volunteer Week kicked off yesterday, and throughout the week, thousands of volunteers will participate in acts of service across our nation. As ocean stewards, we have a responsibility to maintain a healthy ocean so it stays resilient to human impacts. So let’s do our part and help keep our ocean and Great Lakes free of debris by organizing a cleanup with your friends, families, and local community.

It’s as easy as this:

  1. Gather a team of people.
  2. Find a local neighborhood, park, stream, river, lake or beach that you’d like to clean.
  3. Grab a bucket and gloves to help collect trash – let’s make this cleanup zero-waste!
  4. Track your trash! Use the Marine Debris Tracker app to catalog what you’ve cleaned up.
  5. Dispose of the garbage in a public dumpster or in your trash can. Don’t forget to recycle the recyclables.


Now that you have tools, don’t stop there. The easy part about cleanups is that you can do this year-round. Start today for cleaner tomorrow and pass the message along: volunteer to keep our ocean debris-free!

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Disbanding the Oregon Japan Tsunami Marine Debris Task Force

A dock that came ashore on Agate Beach in Oregon was confirmed to be one of four docks that swept away from Japan's coastline after the devastating March 2011 tsunami.

A dock that came ashore on Agate Beach in Oregon was confirmed to be one of four docks that swept away from Japan’s coastline after the devastating March 2011 tsunami.

On October 29th, 2014, the Oregon Japan Tsunami Marine Debris (JTMD) Task Force met for the last time, reviewed past and present JTMD activities, and disbanded. The end of the Task Force’s service is a good example of how a task force can come together and then dissolve to focus on other pressing regional priorities. It’s also an indication that Japan tsunami marine debris, which was front and center of public and media attention two years ago, has now diminished. JTMD will continue to be researched and studied but it has always been part of the larger and persistent marine debris problem that impacts the world’s oceans.

The “Oregon JTMD Task Force” was established shortly after the floating dock from Misawa, identified as Japan tsunami marine debris, landed on Agate beach, near Newport, Oregon. Task Force members included representatives from state, federal, and local agencies, NGOs and academia. They collaborated closely over the last two and a half years to address JTMD. They drafted the Oregon JTMD Plan and conducted public meetings to introduce it. As funding to address JTMD became available from NOAA and through a generous gift from the Government of Japan, the Task Force put it to good use. The Task Force met periodically to provide updates and discuss JTMD issues, and its members have collaborated to study invasive species found on JTMD, and remove JTMD items, big and small, from the Oregon coast, with the help of thousands of dedicated volunteers.

Recently, the Government of Japan confirmed this blue box that came ashore in Lakewood, Oregion to be JTMD.

Recently, the Government of Japan confirmed this blue box that came ashore in Lakewood, Oregion to be JTMD.

It is telling that a week prior to the Task Force’s last meeting, a large blue plastic box was found near Lakewood, Oregon, a box that has since been confirmed by the Government of Japan as having washed out from Fudai Village in Iwate Prefecture during the tsunami. More JTMD, mixed with other marine debris from places near and far, will surely come ashore in the months and even years to come, but the entities that were part of the Oregon JTMD Task Force now benefit from the experience gained, the response plan created, the lessons learned, and the on-going collaboration of all involved, and be well prepared to handle whatever washes ashore.


A Better Belle Isle

By: Sarah Lowe (Opfer)

A portion of shoreline on Belle Isle, Michigan is now free of marine debris!  In 2012, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative provided funding to the Alliance for the Great Lakes to tackle the problem of marine debris on this historic island.

Throughout the past two years, the project team has been busy on four different project components.  The removal project helped clean up 200 metric tons of debris, which included concrete slabs, rebar, and other metal debris.

The project enlisted the help of 514 volunteers representing 13 different groups to participate in the Alliance’s Adopt-a-Beach™ program to remove and record litter from the Belle Isle shoreline. Volunteers spent 2,170 hours of service and removed 4,563.5 pounds of debris.

Belle Isle is a popular recreational area for Detroit, Michigan.  It is the largest city-owned island park in the United States, and is currently leased to the state of Michigan.  This allowed for some unique education and outreach opportunities in partnership with the Belle Isle Nature Zoo and other groups on the island.  The Boat US Foundation donated five monofilament fishing line recycling bins. The bins were installed at various fishing piers and other popular fishing spots around the island.  Volunteers from Go Lightly Career and Tech Center visited the bins monthly to record the amount of fishing line collected in the bins for a total of 55 entries to the BoatUS Foundation database.

Beyond the bins, the Alliance worked with the Belle Isle Nature Zoo to also develop an educational mobile display to educate zoo-goers about the recycling project on the island and to stress the problem with fishing line and trash left in the Great Lakes environment. Recently the Nature Zoo used it at a special youth day in Detroit on July 11 reaching an estimated that 1,500 students.  The Nature Zoo itself hosts more than 60,000 visitors a year.

Belle Isle mobile education display

Belle Isle mobile education display

While marine debris removal projects have obvious benefits to habitat, many of our funded projects like Belle Isle, reach beyond their footprint to make a difference in the community and to educate others on the impacts of marine debris.

“It’s one of the most productive partnerships that I can think of. Working together, the impact we have made on teachers, students and the community really is priceless. It’s immeasurable,” said Belle Isle Nature Zoo’s Mike Reed.

The project team successfully secured funds to continue the work to make a “Better Belle Isle.” Learn more about NOAA Marine Debris Program’s removal funding opportunity here.

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The International Coastal Cleanup Turns the Tide on Trash

By: Asma Mahdi

What does fishing line, a miniature plastic toy dog, and a single use water bottle have in common? They’re all marine debris found at this year’s International Coastal Cleanup.

Volunteers across the country from the Eastern shores of the U.S. to the Hawaiian islands participated in the largest single-day, volunteer effort to help protect our oceans from trash. In California alone, volunteers prevented nearly 680,000 pounds of trash from entering our oceans – stopping it in its tracks.

Thank you to all volunteers who came out on Saturday to clean up our rivers, lakes, and oceans.

Here’s a look at what NOAA volunteers across the nation found during the cleanup event:

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Announcing Marine Debris State of the Science Reports

By: Asma Mahdi

The NOAA Marine Debris Program, in partnership with the National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science, is undertaking an effort to assess the state of marine debris science. We have started off with two reports on marine debris entanglements and ingestion. The reports are results of a rigorous research synthesis and highlight debris impacts to marine wildlife, including whales, seals, turtles, and birds.

These reports will help the Marine Debris Program better understand debris impacts and identify knowledge gaps, so we can forge forward to find solutions through further research and targeted prevention and reduction activities. Visit the to download a copy of the full reports.


Keep “The Land of the Free,” Free of Debris

By: Asma Mahdi

Fireworks over San Diego Bay in California on the 4th of July.

Fireworks over San Diego Bay in California on the 4th of July.

On Friday night, many of us from coast to coast will watch spectacular fireworks takeover starry skies with brightly colored chrysanthemum bursts of red, white, and blue. It’s the Fourth of July – a day for friends and families to rejoice in our nation’s independence and jump into summertime festivities. It’s often an afterthought, but after the bursts of lights cease and the crowd clears, who’s going to clean-up the mess?

The morning after a fireworks display, not surprisingly, is a dirty day at the beach. Pieces of litter can easily be traced back to activities from the day before with a noticeable increase in firework debris along the coastline. You can find spent plastic shells, tubes, wings, and other small remnants in pockets where fireworks launched just a day before. These plastic pieces, especially hard plastics, are a potential human health hazard, with a risk of injury, and can be easily mistaken for food by marine animals, especially birds.

There are simple steps we can all take to prevent this debris from entering the ocean. If you plan to celebrate this Fourth of July with fireworks, keep the “land of the free,” free of debris:

  • Most importantly, be safe and make sure it is legal to use fireworks in your state. Check this listing at to see your state’s firework regulation laws. Local regulations vary, so be sure to check those out, too.
  • Visit the Consumer Product Safety Commission website to learn how to properly and safely handle and dispose of used fireworks.
  • Volunteer for a beach cleanup after the Fourth of July to help remove debris left behind.

There are several cleanups events nationwide. Participate in one of these post-celebration beach cleanups or find a cleanup near your region:

Washington: Host: via Grassroots Garbage Gang, Long Beach Peninsula Saturday, July 5

Oregon: Host: SOLVE Seaside Beach Saturday, July 5, 8am – 11am

Northern California: Host: Save our Shores Various sites in Santa Cruz and Monterey County Friday, July 4th (noon – 4pm), and Saturday, July 5 (8am – 10am)

Southern California: Host: Heal the Bay Manhattan Beach Saturday, July 19, 10am – noon

Hawaii: Host: ProjectAware Magic Island Beach Cleanup Saturday, July 5, 8am – noon

Great Lakes: Host: Alliance for the Great Lakes Various locations at times, click link for more info Saturday, July 5

New Hampshire: Host: Blue Ocean Society Jenness Beach Wed, July 9, 6:30 PM

Massachusetts: Host: Surfride Foundation, MassachusettsChristian A Herter Park Sat, July 12, 2:30pm – 4:30pm

Florida: Host: City of Maderia Beach Archibald Park Saturday, July 5, 8am – 11am

Florida: Host: Keepers of the Coast Various locations Saturday, July 5, 5pm – 7pm