Remove, Recycle, Restore: Salish Synergy in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Posted Wed, 08/31/2022 - 11:00

Guest blog by: Teresa Mackey, National Marine Sanctuary Foundation

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.  

The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation and Washington CoastSavers have teamed up with Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary, Net Your Problem, the Ocean Legacy Foundation, and other partners to achieve this marine debris removal goal. This multidisciplinary team of scientists, educators, Tribal members, and volunteers are organizing six major shoreline cleanups and over sixty smaller events that help stop the flow of marine debris at every stage in its cycle - from prevention and education, to removal and restoration, to recycling and repurposing.  

Heavy rainfall and winds from winter storms drive marine debris from out in the ocean onto beaches. This dangerous debris littering our coastlines injures and kills marine life (such as seabirds, forage fish, and marine mammals), can interfere with shipping and navigation, and threatens coastal industries such as aquaculture and fishing. Although marine debris accumulates over time and has impacts on the ecosystem for years to come, with teamwork and dedicated volunteers, it can be removed within a weekend!

A remote area full of collected marine debris.
A remote area with marine debris collected from near Lake Ozette, Washington, by hikers and deposited away from the beach (Credit: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation).

The removal of debris from these shores prevents its distribution by wind and waves, and reintroduction to the environment. Volunteer teams trek to remote areas to collect and catalog the debris, which comes in many shapes and sizes - ranging from soda cans and plastic bags, to derelict fishing gear, and even abandoned vessels! Collecting data improves our understanding of the types and amounts of marine debris found on these shorelines, and helps promote efforts that stop it at the source. Volunteers then haul the debris to designated disposal locations. During the April 2022 Earth Day cleanup, almost 2,000 pounds of plastics, foam, net, and rope were removed from a remote area in Olympic National Park. Data collected on the debris improves our understanding of the types and amounts of marine debris in our area and helps promote efforts that stop it at the source.

The former location of a remote collection of marine debris now cleared.
The former location of a remote collection of marine debris near Lake Ozette, Washington, after cleanup actions were completed (Credit: National Marine Sanctuary Foundation).

The second phase of this effort begins after the debris is collected. Instead of continuing to cycle through the ecosystem, these plastics are given new life. Using innovative methods, partners mechanically process the hard plastics to recycle them into durable products, such as crab gauges, or tools used to measure crabs after they are caught, to demonstrate the potential value of this debris to manufacturers. A mold for commercialization of this new product was built and partners hope to manufacture and distribute 500 units to recreational boaters. 

Education and community engagement on marine debris is a key component of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation’s conservation work. Project partners will also develop a best practices guide for outreach about responsibly disposing and deriving value from beach plastics.

Through participation, these cleanups educate and empower the community to be lifelong environmental stewards, safeguard these special places along Washington waters, and restore their beauty for all to enjoy. 

Remove, Recycle, Restore: Salish Synergy in the Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary

Posted Wed, 08/31/2022 - 11:00

For citation purposes, unless otherwise noted, this article was authored by the NOAA Marine Debris Program.

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Dr. Carl Berg

Thu, 09/01/2022 - 15:33

Great job. The debris pile looks about the same as we get on Hawaiian shores, ALDFG. I see in the right corner of picture a black perforated cylinder used in the marine eel fisheries. Did anyone keep count of eel trap entrances or cylinders? We are finding them all across the shores of the North Pacific and would really like data from your studies. The conical shaped trap entrances get caught on the snouts of pups of the enangered Hawaiian monk seal causing them to starve! Anyone can report finding trap entrances at hagfish@surfrider. org.


Thu, 09/22/2022 - 12:26

We are discovering them everywhere around the North Pacific coast, therefore we would really appreciate information from your research. For older and younger generations, it would be interesting to see all the processing phases! highlighting typical issues and difficulties with recycling
I am the founder of OpenOceans Global and we have developed an online map of shorelines trashed by plastic and a short survey that allows people to share plastic-fouled beaches they might know about. It’s as easy as dropping a pin on the survey map, answering a few questions, and adding an image. You can even do it on a smartphone. The data gathered will ultimately help to document and visualize the shorelines around the world that are pervasively fouled by plastic. Knowing these locations will lead to an understanding of the pathways the plastic took to arrive there and solutions that can be implemented to stem the flow of plastic to that location. Your work in the northwest would be a great assist in identifying shorelines fouled by plastic in that part of the world. Website:
...Aloha Diana, My email address is Email me a request and I will send email the article that has come out Marine Litter Newsletter about our project and the posters we presented at the recent 7th Intenrational Marine Debris Conference. I will also send information about our using ByBlocks (compressed plastic blocks) to build a sports pavilion for a local school.