Volunteers loading debris into a boat on a remote Alaskan shoreline.

Marine Debris in Alaska

This region includes all of Alaska.

The marine debris problem is different in Alaska than in other parts of the United States. With an extensive, rugged, and remote coastline, longer than the rest of the United States, addressing marine debris in Alaska requires innovative and creative approaches. Since 2006, the NOAA Marine Debris Program has worked with partners to conduct debris research, removal, and prevention, directly funding more than 35 projects in Alaska that have removed over 900 metric tons of debris from shorelines. On many beaches, removal efforts are paired with surveys to determine debris re-accumulation rates and track changes in the types of debris that come ashore.

Regional Coordinator

Two people drag a mass of derelict fishing nets, buoys, and other gear on a rocky Alaska shoreline.

Regional Collaboration

Regional Action Planning

  • Work is ongoing on the Alaska Marine Debris Action Plan. The NOAA Marine Debris Program facilitated in-person listening sessions and online webinars in the spring of 2023, and released a framework document to stakeholders for comment in May 2023. A final draft is expected in early fall 2023.

A bead of polystyrene foam.

Regional Topics

  • Lose the Loop! Derelict nets, line, traps, and packing bands can entangle and entrap marine species, such as Alaska's Steller sea lions and northern fur seals, indiscriminately.
  • While most debris comes from chronic everyday sources, acute events can generate significant debris, and unique concerns. This occurred in the Bering Strait Debris Event of 2020, where unusual debris arrived on shorelines. Information on the event and response can be found in the Bering Strait Debris Event Report.
  • Marine debris can be found even in the most remote parts of Alaska, including the Arctic. A joint project with National Park Service, NOAA, and Clemson University showed concentrations of microplastics in sand collected at two Arctic sites was comparable to two major U.S. cities.
  • The Arctic Council has made marine debris (or “marine litter”) a focus during the 2019-2021 Icelandic chairmanship. NOAA is supporting efforts by Council multiple working groups to understand the state of the science, create guidelines for monitoring, and coordinate future actions for marine debris in the Arctic.
Large pieces of foam and buoys mixed in with natural debris on a shoreline.

Additional Resources

  • Gulf of Alaska Aerial Survey Heatmap - This map shows a “heatmap” visualization of aerial survey data collected in 2014 and 2015.  While that was some time ago, it reflects long-known patterns of debris deposition and identified “hot-spot” or “catcher” beaches.

Abandoned and Derelict Vessels

Information for states and territories in the Alaska region:
Last updated Tue, 03/26/2024 - 04:45 pm EDT