The Smelly Science of Tracking the Movements of Microplastics

Posted Wed, 02/06/2019 - 08:24

Where does plastic go once it enters the ocean? This is a harder question to answer than it may seem. When we think of plastic pollution, most of us think of large pieces of plastic floating at the surface of the ocean, but that’s only a piece of the puzzle. Plastic can be found at every depth in the ocean. Some of that plastic does float, but some drifts underwater, and some sinks all the way down to the ocean floor. It is especially hard to keep track of the smallest pieces of plastic, microplastics less than 5mm in size. Recent research is revealing that those microplastics are being moved not just by currents and weather, but by animals through their digestive tracts.

2018 Hawaii Marine Debris Action Plan Released

Posted Thu, 01/31/2019 - 09:08

The NOAA Marine Debris Program is pleased to share the fifth and final update to the current 10-year Hawai‘i Marine Debris Action Plan. This document is the result of a productive and collaborative effort between the NOAA Marine Debris Program and regional partners, including representatives from governments, non-profits, academia, and the private sector.

Disposal Challenges in the Bering Sea

Posted Fri, 12/21/2018 - 09:31

Today is the shortest day of the year in the Northern Hemisphere. For Unalakleet, on Alaska’s Bering Sea coast, this means barely more than four hours of sunlight. The small, remote communities that dot Alaska’s coastline and Bering Sea islands can be as harsh as they are beautiful. The Marine Debris Program has partners in these regions that are hardy and hard-working, but marine debris can still be a huge challenge. The remoteness of these places and the severe weather means that disposing of the debris is one of the biggest issues. We talked to partners in three Bering Sea communities about what happens to the debris once it’s removed from the ocean and shoreline.

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Texas Marine Debris Emergency Response Guide: A New Comprehensive Guide for the State

Posted Tue, 12/18/2018 - 08:33

The Marine Debris Program is pleased to release the Texas Marine Debris Emergency Response Guide: Comprehensive Guidance Document, the final emergency response guide for the Gulf of Mexico states. The Texas Guide is a product of a collaborative process with local, state, and federal agencies.  The Guide aims to improve preparedness for response and recovery operations following an acute waterway debris incident in coastal Texas.

Have a Holiday Party with Less Waste

Posted Thu, 12/13/2018 - 08:51

As the end of the year is quickly approaching, many people around the country will be gathering together during these shortened days to celebrate. Spending time with friends and loved ones is a great way to get out of the cold, but celebrations can also create a lot of waste. Packaging around gifts, food, decorations, and other party supplies can really add up. The more we throw away, the greater the likelihood that some of it will escape into the natural environment and make its way down our rivers and streams, to the ocean or Great Lakes. Having a fun, festive party and reducing your waste doesn’t have to be a chore — just use these handy tips.

Removing Hurricane Debris from Florida’s Coral Reefs

Posted Thu, 12/06/2018 - 09:08

Marine debris is an everyday issue, but hurricanes can make the problem much worse. High winds, torrential rains, and storm surges can all loosen debris and send it towards the ocean. Hurricanes often occur in the same tropical waters as coral reefs. After strong storms, tons of debris, including parts of houses, piers, and whole boats, can end up damaging these unique ecosystems. Here at the Marine Debris Program (MDP), we are working with partners to remove debris from Hurricane Irma that is threatening, or has already damaged, Florida coral reefs.

How Does Marine Debris Affect Coral Reefs?

Posted Tue, 12/04/2018 - 08:33

 

Coral reefs are one of Earth’s most productive ecosystems. Rocky reefs can form barrier islands that protect the mainland from storms and destructive waves. They are home to a third of all the fish species in the ocean, even though they make up a teeny tiny portion (less than 0.25%) of our ocean. The fish and other organisms that call reefs home provide food for millions of people. They are also fragile, which means that marine debris can have a huge impact on these ecosystems. How exactly does marine debris affect these living geologic formations? Here’s what we know so far.