Man on a boat with a crab trap.

On the Water


As a boater, you appreciate all that our ocean and waterways have to offer, and you want to ensure that you can enjoy those waters again and again. Marine debris can not only be an eyesore, but can be a hazard to navigation in the water. Here are some things you can do to reduce marine debris when out on the water:

  • Properly stow and secure all trash on your boat.
  • Remember that it is illegal to dispose of any garbage in all U.S. waters and anywhere at sea.
  • Report illegal dumping to your local U.S. Coast Guard (USCG) Sector Office. Use Channel 16 on your VHF marine radio or call (800) 424-8802 to locate the Sector Office near you. The Coast Guard's HOMEPORT website is an online portal for local and national USCG information.
  • If you live in an area prone to hurricanes or severe storms, have a storm plan in place unique to the type of boat, the local boating environment, and weather conditions likely to occur in that region.
  • Support environmentally responsible marinas. Clean Marina programs are voluntary partnerships between the state, private, and public marina owners, boatyards, and yacht clubs that stress environmental protection and meet or exceed all state and federal regulatory requirements. Best practices include things like providing sufficient waste and recycling receptacles and a place to recycle fishing line.

Abandoned and derelict vessels can be a danger to navigation, damage habitat, and leak hazardous materials into the water. As a boat owner, there are things you can do to prevent your vessel from becoming hazardous marine debris. Boat owners should keep their registration current, purchase insurance, perform regular maintenance, and create an end-of-life plan for vessels. This plan may include:

  • Disposing of hazardous materials properly.
  • Recycling valuable parts and metals.
  • Bringing the vessel to a salvage shop or landfill for recycling and disposal.
  • Researching whether your state has a voluntary vessel turn-in/disposal program.

To learn more about your state’s policies on abandoned and derelict vessels, visit our ADV Info Hub.


As a recreational fisher, you respect and appreciate our ocean and waterways in a unique way. It is important to ensure that future generations can carry on the fishing tradition. Lost or abandoned fishing gear is the most common form of ocean-based marine debris. You can help reduce the amount of debris that enters the ocean, Great Lakes, and other waterways by following these guidelines:

  • Bring all of your trash back to shore for proper disposal in trash cans or recycling bins, including fishing line and other fishing gear. Many docks, piers, boat launches, and fishing supply shops have bins to collect monofilament for recycling.
  • Have a storm plan in place unique to your type of gear and marine environment. Be sure anyone who fishes or farms with you knows how to execute the plan.
  • Consider recycling used line in appropriate containers at participating locations. Contact your Marine Debris Program Regional Coordinator for more information on where to recycle fishing line in your area.

If you are a commercial fisher, you can participate in the Fishing for Energy Program. This program provides collection bins for old or unusable fishing gear. Once the collection bins are filled up, the metal parts of the gear are recycled and the rest is converted into energy. Contact your Marine Debris Program Regional Coordinator for more information on where to recycle fishing gear in your area.

Last updated Wed, 03/27/2024 - 11:53 am EDT