Colorful microplastics in a bottle.


Each fiscal year (October through September), the Marine Debris Program supports research projects across the country that address marine debris, its sources, and its impacts. These projects work to investigate many unanswered questions about marine debris so we can better understand it and mitigate its impacts, focusing on marine debris monitoring, fishing gear improvement and alternatives, life cycle analysis, chemical impacts, and economic impacts.
(Photo Credit: NOAA)

2017 Active Projects

2016 Active Projects

2015 Active Projects

  • Two people sampling on a beach.

    The National Park Service and Clemson University worked to collect and analyze beach sediments to assess the abundance and distribution of microplastics and microfibers on U.S. National Park beaches.

  • Two people recording on datasheets on a beach.

    The Ocean Conservancy, with the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, led this research project which analyzed datasets from the International Coastal Cleanup and NOAA's Marine Debris Monitoring and Assessment Project. It identified trends in marine debris distribution using a model, assessed management actions, and produced recommendations to improve monitoring protocols.

2014 Active Projects

2013 Active Projects

2012 Active Projects

2009 Active Projects

  • Derelict Dungeness Crab Pot.

    The NOAA Marine Debris Program is supporting research efforts to measure and address the impacts of derelict crab traps in Alaska’s Dungeness crab fisheries.

Completed Research Projects - Archives

Click the bars below to view completed projects from that year.

2014 Projects

A variety of samples from Gulf of Alaska surface waters. (Photo Credit: University of Washington Tacoma)

Scientists from UW Tacoma and UW’s JISAO established a baseline for the distribution and quantity of marine microplastics in the Gulf of Alaska, using it to investigate any change in microplastics following the 2011 Fukushima tsunami.

Bycatch Example (Photo Credit: VIMS).

This project investigated the physical, biological, and socio-economic impacts of Derelict Fishing Gear (DFG) in the Chesapeake Bay.

Blue crab pot with biopanel.

The College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science employed commercial fishermen to test biodegradable panels and will use color avoidance mechanisms to reduce bycatch mortality in derelict crab pots as part of a Fishing for Energy Gear Innovation project.

SCNDR Field Biologist Watches a Float.

The South Carolina Department of Natural Resources is evaluating crab trap float rigging designs that may reduce crab trap damage and loss from boat strikes in this Fishing for Energy Gear Innovation project.

Blue crabs trapped in a derelict pot.

SERC is evaluating existing crab pot technologies reduce the impact of Maryland ghost crab pots in the Chesapeake Bay in this Fishing for Energy Gear Innovation project.

2012 Projects

Microplastics sample from the Rhode River. (Photo Credit: Will Parson, courtesy of the Chesapeake Bay Program)

The University of Maryland’s Wye Research and Education Center Aquatic Toxicology Group, by request of the NOAA Marine Debris Program, analyzed archived surface-water samples from four Chesapeake Bay tributaries for microplastic debris.

Marine debris on a beach in California.

Southern California residents lose millions of dollars each year avoiding littered, local beaches in favor of choosing cleaner beaches that are farther away and may cost more to reach, according to a new NOAA-funded Marine Debris Program economics study.

2011 Projects

Plastic nurdles spread out on a table

Scientists from the University of Washington Tacoma and George Mason University worked to isolate and quantify microplastics in water and sediment samples and to compare laboratory protocols.