World Ocean Day is just around the corner! At the NOAA Marine Debris Program (MDP), we are taking this time to think about the ocean and all the ways it helps us. From the oxygen we breathe, to the food we depend on, a place to play, and even jobs, the ocean gives us a lot. Unfortunately, we also add things to the ocean that don’t belong there, such as plastic bottles, cigarette butts, and even fishing gear.
The MDP is proud to have partners around the country that help us take on marine debris and give back to our ocean. Our team picked out this list of partner projects that make us feel positive, and fuel our ‘ocean optimism!’
The 2017 hurricane season was one of the most active and impactful on record. Hurricane Irma was the strongest hurricane ever observed in the open Atlantic Ocean and caused widespread devastation in the Caribbean, Florida, and the Southeastern U.S., including Georgia. As a result, Hurricane Irma ranked in the top five costliest hurricanes in the U.S. at $50 billion.
When we decided to convert a stuffed toy sea turtle into a model for simulating a necropsy (or animal dissection), we never imagined how impactful the experience would be for kids. With funding from a NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention Grant, the University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) MarineQuest created Turtle Trash Collectors (2TC) to help children understand the marine debris issue and to provide ways for them to address the problem.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Southeast region, which spans Georgia, South Carolina, and North Carolina, includes gorgeous sand beaches, expansive meandering marshlands, diverse wildlife, significant history, and lots of southern charm. While sweet tea, hospitality, downhome sayings, and “y’all” are signatures of the south, so too are the issues with marine debris. Y’all, the struggle is real and it’s a sight for sore eyes!
Bottles, bags, plastic foam trays: single-use plastic has become an everyday part of peoples’ lives, and a common sight on beaches around Alaska. Cleaning debris off of beaches can only get to part of the mess, and only serve as part of the solution, especially in Alaska, where there are over 44,000 miles of often dangerous and difficult to access coastline. To address the issue further we have to slow the stream of plastic into a state where plastic is easy to come by, but difficult to deal with.
The word “Alaska” may bring to mind images of snowy mountains, icy glaciers, dogsleds, snow-machines, isolated cabins, fishing boats, and amazing wildlife. While those are all things you can find in “The Great Land,” Alaska is also a place where marine debris is an especially impactful and challenging problem.
The southern shoreline of Hawai‘i is inundated with plastic pollution - to the point that one area, routinely cleaned by volunteers, is sadly known as “Plastic Beach.” Hawai'i Wildlife Fund is committed to caretaking this culturally rich stretch of coastline and restoring its proper name: Kamilo Point.
Inspiration for a project can come from multiple places, which is the case for the Hawaii State Parks water bottle filling station project, that will become a reality thanks to a NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention Grant. The first seed for this project was planted when I volunteered with Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund to help with a cleanup at Kamilo Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii.
The Pacific Islands bring to mind some of the world’s most beautiful beaches, but many do not know it is also home to beaches that are overwhelmed with marine debris. Pacific Ocean currents carry marine debris from afar to these remote archipelagos, inundating even its uninhabited islands with massive amounts of trash. The NOAA Marine Debris Program’s (MDP) Pacific Islands Region includes the Hawaiian Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands (CNMI).
When we think about marine debris, we often picture the turtles, fish, and marine mammals that are impacted by plastics, fishing gear, and other marine debris. But what about wildlife that spends its time above water? World Migratory Bird Day (WMBD) is coming up this Saturday, May 11, and we are working with Environment for the Americas to raise awareness on the importance of migratory bird species, and the ways we can protect birds from the threat of plastic pollution and marine debris.