Marine Debris Blog
It’s that time of year—time to announce the winners of the NOAA Marine Debris Program Annual Art Contest! We had hundreds of impressive entries this year and although we wish we could showcase them all, we are excited to share this year’s winners with you:Click to view slideshow.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program holds this annual art contest to reach K-8 students and help raise awareness about marine debris, one of the most significant problems our ocean faces today. The resulting calendar, featuring the winning artwork, will help to remind us every day how important it is for us to be responsible stewards of the ocean. This year’s winners will be featured in our 2018 calendar, available later this year.
Thank you to all the students and schools that participated in this year’s contest, and congratulations to all of our winners!
Working closely with the Florida Department of Environmental Protection Coastal Management Program and numerous other Florida marine debris stakeholders, the NOAA Marine Debris Program is proud to have been involved in the recent creation of the Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan. This Plan, which is a compilation of recommended strategies and actions toward reducing the impacts and amount of marine debris in Florida, is the result of multiple years of collaboration between stakeholders including federal and state agencies, local governments, non-governmental organizations, universities, and industry. Moving into the future, the Plan will act as a guide to measure progress toward addressing the marine debris problem in Florida.
We are happy to announce that the Florida Marine Debris Reduction Guidance Plan is now available on our website and on the Florida Department of Environmental Protection website.
By: Amy Uhrin, Chief Scientist with the NOAA Marine Debris Program
Microplastics are a type of plastic marine debris that are less than five millimeters in size. Research on this type of debris has become more widespread, but since there is no single agreed-upon method for separating, counting, and weighing microplastics in water samples, it is difficult to compare results across studies. Common approaches may be used, but most laboratories develop their own procedures based on factors such as budget, equipment availability, labor, and the specific research questions being asked.
Since so many different protocols are being used, the NOAA Marine Debris Program partnered with researchers at the University of Washington Tacoma to compare different methodologies. Six labs from around the globe were chosen for this comparison, each having experience in processing water samples for the purpose of counting microplastic particles. Reference samples were created by first filtering water collected from the Thea Foss Waterway in Tacoma, Washington, and then adding a known number and weight of microplastic pieces to 200mL of the filtered water. The types of plastic pieces added to the sample included fragments from drinking straws, netting, sandwich bags, and other common plastic items. These reference samples were shipped in glass jars to participating laboratories for analysis. The labs were asked to use their own methods to process the sample and report the number of particles counted and the total weight of the particles.
The overall accuracy of the protocol comparison was high. Microplastic weights measured by the participating labs differed by only 1.6% on average from the reference sample. There was also high agreement in the particle counts made by each lab versus the reference samples. Projects such as this that evaluate the comparability among labs are a first step toward the development of standardized microplastic sampling methods for the collection of reliable and comparable data. To our knowledge, this is the first interlaboratory comparison for microplastic sampling methods.
The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference: Call for Technical Sessions, Important Dates, & More
The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference (6IMDC) will be held in San Diego, California, USA, from March 12-16, 2018, and will serve as an opportunity to energize international coordination efforts within the marine debris community. The 6IMDC organizers are pleased to announce updates to the website, including:
Call for Technical Sessions: With a variety of topics available, the 6IMDC organizers are currently soliciting technical session proposals for the conference. Session proposals will be evaluated on technical merit; interest from the greater marine debris community; ability to engage scientists, policymakers, natural resource managers, and industry representatives; and the ability to show a breadth of engagement across disciplines. Visit the Call for Technical Sessions page for more information on session topics and the submission form.
Sponsorship Information: Sponsors interested in marine debris issues will have the opportunity to foster dialogue, forge partnerships, and promote communication and education. The 6IMDC sponsors will receive highly-visible recognition for their support in making this conference a success. Sponsorship opportunities are available at various contribution levels that will highlight your commitment and support for the marine debris community. Visit the Sponsorship page to learn more about the available selection of sponsorship opportunities.
Please note the Important Dates page for a full listing of activities and ways to participate during the year leading up to the event.
Today is Saint Patrick’s Day and let the sea of green that comes with this holiday remind you to “go green” today and every day! There are lots of ways we can all make our lives a little greener. How could you make your life more environmentally-friendly? Here are some ideas to get you started:
Remember your 3R’s. One of the easiest ways to “go green” is to follow the 3R’s every day and reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible!
Spread the word. Let others know about issues like marine debris and how they can help. A lot of people are unaware of these issues and how their actions can affect our environment. Get your friends and family in on the action and go green together!
Join a cleanup. If you’d like to take a more active role, join a cleanup in your area! Our monthly e-newsletter lists cleanup events around the country each month. Can’t find one near you that works with your schedule? Start one yourself! Gather some friends and pick up debris in your neighborhood or at a nearby stream, river, or shoreline (please remember, safety first!).
Skip the garbage can during spring cleaning. Spring is starting to show itself and with that often comes spring cleaning. Skip the “out with the old, in with the new” mindset and reuse some of those old items rather than tossing them. Donate those old clothes when you’re cleaning out your closet, reuse them as rags, or even convert them into something new!
Keep these in mind as you work to keep our ocean clean and go green for St. Patrick’s Day!
Happy St. Patrick’s Day from the NOAA Marine Debris Program
While marine debris is perhaps more commonly thought of as an oceanic problem, the Great Lakes region is an area that is also affected by debris, particularly consumer product items and other such land-based litter. In 2015 alone, the Alliance for the Great Lakes Adopt-a-Beach Program removed 92,616 pounds of debris from Great Lakes habitats. These debris items come from a multitude of sources including overflowing trash cans and other improper waste management, as well as both accidental and intentional littering. Being far from the ocean, many people don’t think about how their trash can end up in our waterways. Weather such as winds and rains can help transport debris into streams and rivers, eventually traveling into the Great Lakes. Once in our environment, these debris items can cause a range of issues, including ingestion by and entanglement of wildlife, hazards for fishermen and boaters, and even simply creating an eyesore on once-beautiful shorelines.
Luckily, people are taking notice of this problem and are working to solve it. In 2014, regional stakeholders developed the Great Lakes Land-based Marine Debris Action Plan to serve as a road map for taking strategic action and making progress toward the goal of the Great Lakes free from the impacts of marine debris. An annual review of the plan keeps this progress on track and ensures any new issues are addressed. Other efforts in the region include work by many marine debris stakeholders, as well as through projects funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program. One such effort, led by the City of Cleveland, is working to prevent consumer product marine debris by developing a social marketing campaign to target three primary consumer items of concern in Cleveland—plastic water bottles, plastic bags, and cigar tips.
You can help to prevent consumer product marine debris in the Great Lakes and in your region by making sure to dispose of your trash properly. Follow the 3R’s and reduce, reuse, and recycle whenever possible. Join a cleanup to help remove the debris that’s already out there and spread the word to others! Together we can help to solve this very preventable problem.
Meet Sarah Lowe, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Great Lakes Regional Coordinator! After earning her B.S. and M.S. degrees in Biology from Bowling Green State University in Ohio, Sarah worked as a research technician on projects involving important Great Lakes issues such as agricultural influences on community diversity, invasive species community interactions, and industrial and contaminant impacts to fisheries. In 2009, Sarah began working with the NOAA Marine Debris Program through the Knauss Sea Grant Fellowship, focusing on developing shoreline marine debris monitoring protocols. In 2010, Sarah moved into her current position as the Great Lakes Regional Coordinator, where she has worked to raise awareness about marine debris in the region and to lead the development of a Great Lakes Marine Debris Action Plan. Reach out to Sarah at email@example.com!
The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Great Lakes region is a large one, encompassing all Great Lakes states— from New York to Minnesota. This region has unique beauty with its complex system of habitats, ranging from the Lakes themselves to their associated wetlands, rivers, and tributaries. Unfortunately, this landscape is marred by the presence of marine debris. Like many places throughout the country, marine debris is a big problem in the Great Lakes region, impacting the environment and the animals that live there, as well as the Great Lakes’ robust recreational fishing and boating economy. Luckily, there are many efforts currently underway to tackle marine debris in this area. Check out some of the newly-established projects funded by the Marine Debris Program:
To address some of the derelict fishing gear that impacts the Great Lakes’ environment as well as the fishing and boating communities, the University of Wisconsin Sea Grant is working to remove derelict fishing nets (or “ghost nets”) in Lake Superior. These nets can create safety risks and so this project is working to develop a crowd-sourced ghost net removal program to reduce this threat. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
While removing debris is unfortunately necessary, the ultimate solution to the problem is to prevent debris items from becoming marine debris in the first place. The School District of the City of Erie, Pennsylvania, is working to do just that by leading education and outreach efforts that reach students, teachers, and the community of Erie, PA. Through these efforts, they’re training teachers and educating students about marine debris, what type of trash is generated in their schools and neighborhoods, and helping students to develop strategies for reducing the amount of trash produced. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
There are lots of cool things happening in the Great Lakes and considering this week marks 2017’s Great Lakes Day, we’re going to celebrate this region by highlighting some of it! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Great Lakes and throughout the country!
Believe it or not, but flowers are already poking their heads out and it’s about time for spring break for students around the country. Whether you’re spending your break in an exotic location or staying local, there are lots of opportunities to spend this time giving back while still having fun.
A great way to both enjoy some outside time and do some good for your environment is to join a shoreline cleanup! There are lots of cleanups happening around the country and across the world, so find one in your area and help pick up some marine debris. No scheduled cleanup near you? Start one yourself by organizing a group of people to clean up your nearby shoreline or street (just remember, safety first!).
If staying indoors is more your thing, you can still help fight marine debris! The ultimate solution to this problem is prevention, so spread the word to your family and friends. Feeling crafty? Make some signs to let people know how they can help. Or, take some of those old items you’ve been meaning to throw away and repurpose them into something useful.
Spring break already packed? No worries, there are still lots of ways you can help in the fight against marine debris without taking up a lot of time. One of the best ways to fight marine debris daily is by making sure to follow the 3Rs—reduce, reuse, recycle! Even though it might not seem like much, if we all put forth just a little effort, together we can make a big difference!
Balloons are a type of marine debris that many people don’t think about. Often used for celebrations or to commemorate special events, balloons are frequently intentionally or accidentally released into the environment. Unfortunately, once they go up, they must also come down; balloons that are released into the air don’t just go away, they either get snagged on something such as tree branches or electrical wires, deflate and make their way back down, or rise until they pop and fall back to Earth where they can create a lot of problems. Balloon debris can be ingested by animals, many of which easily mistake it for real food, and can entangle wildlife, especially balloons with attached ribbons. Balloon debris can even have an economic impact on communities, contributing to dirty beaches which drive away tourists, or causing power outages from mylar balloons covered in metallic paint and their ribbons tangling in power lines.
Balloon debris is a national issue and unfortunately, the Mid-Atlantic is not immune. Over a period of five years (2010-2014), 4,916 pieces of balloon litter were found in Virginia by volunteers participating in the International Coastal Cleanup, with over 3,000 of those pieces found on ocean beaches. In 2014, 236 volunteers found over 900 balloons in the Chincoteague National Wildlife Refuge in Virginia in a three-hour period. Recent surveys of remote islands on Virginia’s Eastern Shore documented up to 40 balloons per mile of beach. These statistics suggest that this Mid-Atlantic area is appropriate to research the balloon debris issue and to create an education and outreach program that could then be used in other states. So the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program, with funding support from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, is doing just that. They’re exploring the issue of intentionally-released balloons and targeting that behavior through a social marketing campaign.
So what can you do to help reduce balloon debris in the Mid-Atlantic and throughout the country? Consider using alternate decorations at your next celebration such as paper streamers or fabric flags. Rather than giving your child a helium balloon on a string, fill it with air and attach it to a stick—they still get the feeling of it floating above their heads without the risk of losing it into the environment. Most importantly, don’t intentionally release balloons into the air. With increased awareness about the issue, we can all work to reduce this very preventable form of marine debris in the Mid-Atlantic and beyond.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) is proud to announce the release of our new report detailing the potential of marine debris to act as a pathway for the introduction of invasive species.
There is mounting concern over the increase in debris in our ocean and the potential for that debris to assist in the spread of non-native species. While the pathways associated with global shipping draw the greatest amount of attention regarding marine invasives, the purpose of this paper is to consider the potential role that marine debris may play in introducing non-native species that may become invasive. This report reviews the scientific literature that exists on the subject and identifies areas where more research is needed.
Meet Jason Rolfe, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s (MDP’s) Mid-Atlantic Regional Coordinator! After earning his B.S. in Environmental Sciences from Frostburg State University, Jason began work at NOAA, where he has worked as a cartographer, an environmental scientist, and a project manager for the past 21 years. Jason joined the MDP in 2011 as the Acting Deputy Director, working on operational tasks as well as focusing on emergency response, planning for the marine debris that washed up on West Coast states after the 2011 Japan tsunami. Since then, he’s also led the MDP’s efforts to address debris in East Coast states resulting from Hurricane Sandy and in 2013, assumed his current position with the Program. Reach out to Jason at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Mid-Atlantic region, encompassing coastal states from New Jersey to Virginia, is no stranger to the impacts of marine debris. Like many coastal areas around the country, this region is often inundated with debris ranging from derelict fishing gear to consumer debris. Luckily, there are several awesome efforts currently underway to address marine debris in the Mid-Atlantic. Check out some newly-established projects funded by the MDP:
In order to address debris at the root of the problem, we must focus on preventing it at its source. Trash Free Maryland is working to prevent the creation of debris in Baltimore, Maryland through a multi-year social marketing campaign. They’re focusing on land-based litter and starting with a pilot campaign utilizing trusted community mentors before expanding their messaging to reach a broader Baltimore audience. The ultimate goal is to reduce the amount of litter in Baltimore by encouraging the feeling of responsibility regarding litter and instilling pride in the community to lead to cleaner neighborhoods and waterways. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
Although prevention is the ultimate solution, removal of debris is unfortunately necessary. To address some of the debris that’s already out there, the Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Delaware Coastal Program is working with local crabbers to locate and remove over 1,000 derelict crab pots from the Delaware portion of the Delaware Bay. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
Running in tandem with the Delaware Coastal Program’s project, the New Jersey Audubon is leading a similar project in the New Jersey waters of the Delaware Bay. Working with Northstar Marine and Stockton University, they are striving to locate and remove over 2,000 derelict crab pots from three critical areas of coastal New Jersey and the Delaware Bay. In addition, they’re training local commercial crabbers to use low-cost sonar devices to locate lost pots in order to limit the re-accumulation of pots after removal. For more information on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
There are lots of cool things happening in the Mid-Atlantic! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Mid-Atlantic and throughout the country!
The NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) is proud to announce the release of the new Marine Debris Emergency Response document for Mississippi! This guide takes existing roles and authorities, as they relate to response to an incident that generates large amounts of debris in coastal waterways, and presents them in one guidance document for easy reference. By collaborating with local, state, and federal entities active in the region, this guide aims to facilitate a more timely and effective response to marine debris incidents in Mississippi.
It’s Valentine’s Day, so take some time today to show our ocean some love. We get a lot from the ocean—food, travel, even clean air to breathe— so return the love by thinking about how you can help protect it from marine debris. Consider how you might contribute to the marine debris problem and think about changes you could make to help. Do you bring reusable bags to the grocery store? Do you drink out of a reusable bottle at work? Do you recycle the items you use as often as possible? Following the 3R’s (reduce, reuse, recycle!) whenever you can makes a big difference for our ocean.
If you’d like to make a bigger gesture, consider helping to spread the word about marine debris or getting involved in a cleanup event! There are lots of free outreach materials on our website and our monthly e-newsletter lists cleanups happening throughout the country each month. No matter how you choose to show the ocean some love, every little bit helps. Let’s work together to love our ocean and give it the attention it deserves!
Happy Valentine’s Day from the NOAA Marine Debris Program.
Although most of us have heard the term “garbage patch” before, many probably don’t have a full understanding of what the term really means. In recent years, there has been a lot of misinformation spread about garbage patches and so now we’re here to try to clear up some of these myths.
First, what are garbage patches? Well, garbage patches are areas of increased concentration of marine debris that are formed from rotating ocean currents called gyres and although they may not be as famous as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” there are actually several garbage patches around the world! So let’s address some of the most common questions and misconceptions about garbage patches:
Are garbage patches really islands of trash that you can actually walk on? Nope! Although garbage patches have higher amounts of marine debris, they’re not “islands of trash” and you definitely can’t walk on them. The debris in the garbage patches is constantly mixing and moving due to winds and ocean currents. This means that the debris is not settled in a layer at the surface of the water, but can be found from the surface, throughout the water column, and all the way to the bottom of the ocean. Not only that, but the debris within the garbage patches is primarily made up of microplastics, which are plastic pieces less than five millimeters in size. Many of these microplastics are the result of larger plastic debris that has broken into small pieces due to exposure to the sun, salt, wind, and waves. Others, such as microbeads from products like facewashes or microfibers from synthetic clothing, are already small in size when they enter the water. With such small debris items making up the majority of the garbage patches and the constant movement of this debris, it’s possible to sail through a garbage patch without even realizing it!
I heard that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the size of Texas and you can see it from space! Since the garbage patches are constantly moving and mixing with winds and ocean currents, their size continuously changes. They can be very large, but since they’re made up primarily of microplastic debris, they definitely can’t be seen from space.
Why don’t we just clean them up? Unfortunately, cleaning up the garbage patches is pretty complicated. Since the debris making them up is not only constantly mixing and moving, but also extremely small in size, removing this debris is very difficult. For these reasons, we generally focus removal efforts on our shorelines and coastal areas, before debris items have the chance to make it to the open ocean and before they have broken into microplastic pieces, which are inherently difficult to remove from the environment. However, preventing marine debris is the key to solving the problem! If you think about an overflowing sink, it’s obvious that the first step before cleaning up the water on the floor is to turn the faucet off—that’s exactly what prevention is! By working to prevent marine debris through education and outreach, and each doing our part to reduce our contribution, we can stop this problem from growing.
Want to learn more about the garbage patches? Check out this blog post or visit the NOAA Marine Debris Program website where you can find more information as well as our Trash Talk video on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
Interested in learning the truth behind other myths? Check out the NOAA Office of Response and Restoration website throughout the week for more myth debunking!
Derelict fishing nets are a big marine debris problem. These nets can entangle wildlife, create major hazards to navigation, and can damage sensitive and important habitats. Unfortunately, they can also be difficult to address as they often have few identifying characteristics. This makes determining their source challenging and makes derelict nets difficult to track.
Derelict fishing nets are a particularly large problem in the Hawaiian archipelago, due to Hawaii’s geographic location in the North Pacific Gyre and Convergence Zone and the large amounts of fishing that occurs domestically and internationally in the Pacific. The North and East Coast shorelines of each Hawaiian Island are the most impacted, due to the northeast trade winds that blow this debris ashore. These nets may come from local origin or from far-off sources throughout the Pacific, but it’s difficult to tell without identifying markers such as a specific regional style (which can often be used to determine the general source of debris like derelict crab traps), serial numbers, or writing. Interestingly, Hawaii’s main commercial fishing industry is longline fishing targeting pelagic (open ocean) species, but the majority of the nets and ropes found in Hawaii are made of trawl or purse seine types, which suggests they are likely not of local origin.
No matter where these derelict nets hail from, they create a problem in this region that must be addressed. Prevention is the key to addressing marine debris, so raising awareness about the issue and educating fishermen is important. However, since the origin of most of these derelict nets is unknown and there are already many nets that litter Hawaiian shores, removal is also a very important part of solving the problem of derelict fishing nets. Recently, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) Pacific Islands Regional staff have received an increase in reports of huge derelict fishing net conglomerates, so removal efforts are particularly important.
There are currently many groups that are working to remove this debris, including the Hawai’i Wildlife Fund, which is leading net patrols and removing debris from over 200 miles of coastline on four different Hawaiian islands through a project recently funded by a MDP Community-based Marine Debris Removal Grant. Surfrider Kaua’i, previously funded by the MDP, is also active in conducting net patrols in Hawaii (check out the giant net they found!). In addition, there are numerous organizations performing beach cleanups in this area, including the State of Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources; these efforts have been an excellent example of the collaborative efforts put forth to implement the Hawai’i Marine Debris Action Plan. This removed debris is disposed of properly and when possible, and recycled through programs such as the Hawai’i Nets to Energy Program.
For more on derelict fishing nets in Hawaii, check out this 2014 interview with NOAA scientists.
Meet Mark Manuel, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s (MDP’s) Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator! Mark is a Hawaii native, and received his B.S. in Marine Science and M.S. in Tropical Conservation Biology and Environmental Science from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo. Before joining the MDP, Mark spent six years with the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, Coral Reef Ecosystem Program. He now works in Honolulu, where he oversees marine debris removal and research projects, the Hawai‘i Nets-to-Energy program, and the NOAA Observer Program at-sea marine debris encounter reports. Mark also works with the Consulate of Japan to confirm tsunami marine debris, is part of numerous emergency response networks, and communicates with the U.S. Coast Guard and state agencies to address Abandoned and Derelict Vessels. Reach out to Mark at email@example.com!
Meet Grace Chon, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Pacific Islands Assistant Regional Coordinator! Grace was born and raised in Maryland and received her B.S. in Biology at the University of Maryland, College Park. After graduating and living in Venezuela for a year, she headed to Hawai’i Pacific University, where she earned her M.S. in Marine Science. As the Assistant Regional Coordinator, Grace now works in Honolulu, Hawaii, where she focuses on marine debris prevention projects, Hawai’i Marine Debris Action Plan activities, regional outreach efforts, and coordination in the territories. Reach out to Grace at firstname.lastname@example.org!
The Pacific Islands are full of sun, sand, and unfortunately… marine debris. Like many other coastal areas, the Pacific Islands are not immune to the impacts of marine debris. Due to the Pacific Islands’ position in the Pacific Ocean and in relation to the North Pacific Gyre and ocean currents, they are often inundated with debris from both local and far-off sources. Luckily, there are many great efforts underway to address and prevent marine debris in this area. Check out a couple newly-established projects funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program:
Preventing marine debris is the ultimate solution to the problem, so Pacific Whale Foundation (PWF) is working to do just that! They’ve launched a public awareness campaign focused on tobacco-free beaches in Maui, Hawaii. To get the word out, they’re creating public service announcements, developing handouts and outreach materials, and giving presentations. PWF is also hosting an art contest to promote marine debris outreach and education. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
Unfortunately, there’s enough marine debris out there that we also must work on removing it. To help clean our shores, Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund is leading an effort to remove as much debris as possible from over 200 miles of coastline on four different islands in Hawaii! Engaging hundreds of volunteers, they aim to remove approximately 55 metric tons (about 120,000 pounds) of marine debris! For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
There are lots of cool things going on in the Pacific Islands! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Pacific Islands and throughout the country!
Through a project supported by a NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention through Education and Outreach grant, the Pacific Whale Foundation is launching a Tidal Trash Treasures Art Contest in Maui, Hawaii! Applicants must create artwork made from marine debris that they collected during a cleanup and must reflect the theme “healthy oceans, healthy marine life.”
For more information on this exciting competition, please see the flyer below. Entries are due Friday, February 17th with an entry “fee” of 25 littered cigarette butts removed from a beach, park, or public area.
Abandoned and derelict vessels (ADVs) are a type of large marine debris that is a problem throughout the country. ADVs can be aesthetically unappealing, but can also create real problems by damaging important habitat, creating hazards to navigation and recreation, leaking pollutants into the environment, and impacting fisheries resources. Vessels can become derelict in a variety of ways, such as being abandoned by their owner after acquiring damage or sunk during a severe storm. Unfortunately, this type of debris can be extremely difficult and costly to remove, often making it difficult to address.
ADVs are particularly a problem in the Gulf of Mexico, especially due to the many severe storms in this region. ADVs and dilapidated docks remain along numerous rivers and tributaries that drain into the Gulf of Mexico. Many of these debris items are a direct result of storms including Hurricanes Ivan in 2004, Katrina and Rita in 2005, Ike in 2008, and Isaac in 2012. Unfortunately, this effect of these storms is not fully understood by many and it is an all too common practice in this region for boat owners to anchor their vessels in river systems prior to hurricane landfalls. Those boats can then lose their moorings and drift into marshes and stream banks from the strong winds, currents, and flooding that accompany these storms.
To address this problem in the Gulf region, the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP) has funded projects specifically to remove ADVs, including efforts in Dog River and Bayou la Batre, Alabama. Currently, the MDP is funding a project in Galveston Bay, Texas to remove large debris items such as ADVs. Unfortunately, there are still many ADVs that the MDP is not able to address due to costs and removal difficulties. For this reason, the MDP created the ADV InfoHub, which details how to address ADVs and provides avenues for removal in each coastal state. The ADV InfoHub also contains case studies and law reviews available for all Gulf States. In addition, the MDP has been involved in the creation of incident waterway response guides in both Florida and Alabama. These guides are meant to improve preparedness for response to and recovery from severe marine debris events by outlining existing responsibilities and procedures in one document for easy reference.
Meet Caitlin Wessel, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Gulf of Mexico Regional Coordinator! Caitlin has a broad background in both education and research, with a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and a M.S. from Coastal Carolina University in Coastal, Marine, and Wetland Studies. In her downtime, Caitlin can be found working towards her PhD in Marine Science from the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, scuba diving, kayaking, or hiking with her puppies. For questions about the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Gulf of Mexico efforts, reach out to Caitlin at email@example.com!
Marine debris is an issue throughout the country and unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico is no different. To address this problem, we first must work to prevent trash from becoming marine debris and we do this through education and outreach. Unfortunately, there’s enough debris out there that we must also work to remove it. Check out some of the efforts currently underway to prevent and remove debris in the Gulf:
Sea Turtle, Inc. is working to prevent marine debris by developing bilingual signage on South Padre Island, Texas. They’re also developing a display and educational programs for students to learn about marine debris, its impacts on wildlife (like sea turtles), and the ways we can help prevent it. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
Ship Island Excursions is also working to prevent marine debris in the Gulf by educating students and community members in Southern Mississippi. As part of this project, they are providing marine debris education to coastal Mississippi students and providing outreach to passengers aboard the Ship Island Ferry through an interactive kiosk, signage, and marine educators and student ambassadors. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
To address the debris that’s already in our waters and on our shores, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is monitoring and removing derelict crab traps in Southern Alabama. They are leading three volunteer removal programs to remove and dispose of derelict crab traps, identifying and counting the animals that have been inadvertently caught by the traps, and monitoring the area to assess the removal efforts. For more information on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
Also working to remove marine debris from the Gulf of Mexico is the Galveston Bay Foundation. They are working to improve habitat and access to Galveston Bay by removing large debris items such as abandoned and derelict vessels from Chocolate Bayou, Texas. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.
There are lots of cool things going on in the Gulf of Mexico! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Gulf and throughout the country!
It may be cold and grey outside, but don’t let it get you down! Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean our efforts to reduce the impacts of marine debris need to dwindle. There are still lots of ways we can make a difference in the fight against marine debris, even when the winter has slowed things down.
Reduce, reuse, recycle. Don’t forget your 3R’s, which make a difference at any time of year! Reduce the amount of single-use materials that you use. Reuse items when you can. And for the items that you do use, don’t forget to recycle whenever possible (check out this blog on recycling to make sure you’re doing it right!).
Spread the word! It doesn’t have to be warm outside to spread the word to friends and family. Preventing marine debris is the key to solving the problem and we can do that through education and outreach. Many people simply don’t understand the issue or don’t know how they can help, so get the word out there! If you’re still in school or involved in teaching, consider incorporating one of our activities or lessons into your classroom. Use the activities demonstrated in our Trash Talk Webinar to discuss marine debris in your boy/girl scout troop. Watch our Trash Talk videos and talk about marine debris with your family. No matter how seemingly small, you can make a big difference.
You can still get involved in cleanup events! There may be fewer cleanups at this time of year due to the cold weather in a lot of areas, but there are still opportunities to clean up! Find one in your area or organize one yourself (remember safety first!) and use the Marine Debris Tracker App! If you haven’t already, subscribe to our monthly e-newsletter, which lists cleanups around the country.
Don’t get the winter blues—get the winter can-do’s and continue the fight against marine debris!