Impacts of Marine Debris: the Struggle for Marine Animals

Posted Fri, 09/11/2015 - 15:10

A plastic bag may look flimsy, but in a fight against a sea turtle, it often wins. Unfortunately, the marine debris that we find floating in our oceans and waterways all too often impacts marine life.

There are many ways that marine debris can impact marine animals. For instance, the accidental ingestion of debris is a big problem! Animals may unintentionally eat debris along with their meal, or intentionally ingest trash due to its resemblance to real food.

Addressing A Rising Concern: Balloon Debris

Posted Thu, 01/15/2015 - 11:13

By: Leah Henry

People intentionally release balloons into the environment to celebrate events and commemorate special occasions. Balloon debris often ends up in streams, rivers, and the ocean, where marine animals can ingest the balloons or become entangled by their attachments, causing injury and even death.

Although many people make the connection that when balloons go up they eventually come back down to Earth, others—even those who would never consider throwing a newspaper or candy wrapper on the ground—will release balloons accidentally or participate in a mass release of balloons without considering the end results.

Garbage Patches: The Cost of a Cleanup (Part 2)

Posted Fri, 07/13/2012 - 01:10

By: Carey Morishige, Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator, NOAA Marine Debris Program

Over the last several years, the infamous “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” has gained popularity. Whether described as an island of trash or a soup of plastic, it has haunted the dreams of ocean conservationists. As I described in my last post, there are a lot of misconceptions about the so-called garbage patch, among them the size and amount of marine debris entrained in this area. To understand the many unknowns about the ‘garbage patch,’ you must first understand what the area really is. In a nutshell, it is a large area of marine debris concentration caused by the clockwise movement of the surface of the ocean. Sailors and fishermen have known of this area for decades—to them it is the North Pacific Subtropical High, a high pressure zone typically avoided by sailors.

'Garbage Patches': What We Really Know (Part 1)

Posted Thu, 06/21/2012 - 13:28

By: Carey Morishige, Pacific Islands Regional Coordinator with the NOAA Marine Debris Program

Working for the NOAA Marine Debris Program, I’ve been asked quite a bit about the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch.’ "Is it really twice the size of Texas?" "Can you see it from an airplane? On Google Earth?"  Working for a science-based agency has underscored my belief in the importance of information based on what is actually known, directly from the experts. That said, I’d like to take this opportunity to debunk some of these ‘garbage patch’ myths.

As you’ve probably seen, the media has been filled with stories about plastic marine debris and the so-called garbage patches. It’s a popular topic (and an important one, don’t get me wrong). However, one common thread through many of these articles deals with misconceptions about the size of the ‘garbage patches.’ 

Cigarette Butts: Plastic, Toxic, Marine Debris

Posted Thu, 04/19/2012 - 02:12

By: Anna Manyak, Knauss Fellow with the NOAA Marine Debris Program

Prior to the 1960s, littering was commonplace.  For those of us who were not alive during that time and love a good TV show, Mad Men gives us an entertaining glimpse of the everyday practices of this era.  If you’re anything like me, you were probably appalled at the episode where the Draper family leaves their trash from a picnic scattered on the ground, with a receptacle in clear sight.  Our littering standards have come a long way since then.  Today, tossing trash on the street or out a car window is unacceptable and unlawful.  However, despite these great strides in litter control, littering of one item in particular continues to be commonplace: Cigarette butts.