In recent years, increasing amounts of marine debris littering the shores of Washington’s wilderness beaches have caused concern in the conservation community. Salish Synergy: Cross-Border Debris Removal and Recycling, an ambitious new project led by the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and funded by the NOAA Marine Debris Program, aims to remove 35,000 pounds of marine debris from Washington’s outer coast annually.
Small plastic pellets, or nurdles, are the raw material for almost everything made of plastic. Unfortunately, before they make it to plastic production, they can be released into the environment where they pollute habitats and harm wildlife. With a grant from the NOAA Marine Debris Program, Nurdle Patrol, a citizen science project run by the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve at the University of Texas Marine Science Institute in Port Aransas, Texas, is expanding efforts throughout Mexico.
The wonders of Washington’s Salish Sea are easy to find. A day exploring here can include roaming a shoreline digging for clams while one of the region's many snowcapped mountains loom in the background, catching salmon, pulling up pots full of Dungeness crab, or traversing the majestic San Juan Archipelago. Yet, underneath the waters of the Salish Sea lies a hidden threat to the ecosystem; lost and abandoned fishing nets and crab pots on the seafloor that degrade marine habitat and entangle and capture marine life with no one there to harvest them. Living in this area comes with the responsibility to protect its beauty and the resources it provides.
Oregon and Washington contain some of the most remote and ecologically diverse coasts in the continental United States. These waters teem with fish and marine mammals, and support tourism and vital subsistence, commercial, and recreational fisheries. Marine debris can be harmful to these waters and all that rely on it. These threats could be derelict fishing gear that entangles and catches marine life, or it could also be large debris such as derelict vessels that have sunk or been improperly disposed of. The NOAA Marine Debris Program partners with community members and organizations in the Pacific Northwest who are committed to preventing and removing these and other types of marine debris.