Survey Protocols

I am completing standing‐stock surveys, and at multiple surveys I have been encountering the same item. Should I tally this item at each survey (assuming it is in one of the random transects)?

Yes! This is part of the reason that standing-stock surveys are informative. They provide information on the density of debris on the shoreline and how it changes over time. Debris that remains on the shoreline for long periods of time is part of the “standing-stock”. The persistence of the item should be noted in the notes section of the data sheet.

I am completing standing stock surveys. Why do I need to take GPS coordinates of all four transects at every survey?

Taking GPS coordinates of each transect helps NOAA to track the location of transects and to ensure that the survey site location is not changing over time (due to moving landmarks or shifting beach dynamics). Additionally, it helps to ensure that site start/end points are located correctly and that equipment is functioning properly.

What should I do if I find an item that may be a valuable or significant memento?

If an item has unique identifiers and may be traceable to an individual or group, please take photos, report it to a local land manager (e.g., a Park Ranger), and report the item to (note that the item was found during a monitoring survey). Use your best judgment to determine what may or may not be valuable. Remember that debris from abroad washes up on our shores all the time.

What should I do if I find a derelict vessel or other large object that may become a hazard to navigation?

Contact your local authorities (a 911 call), state environmental health agency, and the US Coast Guard Pacific Area Command ((510)437-3701) or Atlantic Area Command ((757)398-6700). Provide as much information as possible so the authorities can determine how to respond.

What should I do if I find debris fouled with what might be invasive species from the 2011 Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami in Japan?

If you suspect that you may have found debris with invasive species, please take clear photos of the item, attached organism, and any identifying marks on the object. Remove the item from the water or shoreline and place on dry land well above the high tide line. Please contact the appropriate Pacific region state invasive species coordinator listed at In your report, note the current location of the item.

There is debris beyond the first barrier or change in substrate at the back of the shoreline. Can I record those items?

Items located beyond the first barrier can be noted and described in the notes section of the data sheet; however, these items should not be included in the tallied data for the various debris items.

How do you record the width of the site if the back of the shoreline is not parallel to the water (for example, a U‐shaped site)?

If the shoreline site is irregularly shaped, you will need to measure the width in at least three different places (for a 100-meter long shoreline site) in order to get an average shoreline width. Please sketch the shape of the site in the data sheet notes section. Break the shoreline into a series of rectangles and measure the length and width of each. This does not need to be done at every survey. Please consult NOAA MDP if you have questions (

How do I measure beach width?

Beach width is the horizontal dimension of the beach, covering the distance from the water’s edge to the back of the shoreline as defined on your Shoreline Characterization. The horizontal arrow in the below figure depicts the beach width for this shoreline.


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