Making an Effort to Manage Marine Debris in the Mid-Atlantic

Posted Fri, 06/21/2019 - 13:41

Edited on 6/25/19 to add a new link in paragraph four.

With over 400 miles of coastline and over 10,000 miles of tidal shoreline, the Mid-Atlantic region is bountiful in its cultural, social, and environmental diversity. The Mid-Atlantic region encompasses coastal states from New Jersey to Virginia, and is no stranger to the impacts of marine debris. Like many coastal areas around the country, this region is often inundated with debris ranging from derelict fishing gear to consumer debris items, like plastic bags, bottles, and food packaging. Fortunately, there are several great efforts currently underway to address marine debris in the Mid-Atlantic. Check out some newly-established projects supported by the NOAA Marine Debris Program:

In New Jersey, blue crabs aren’t just a delicious entree; crabbing is a way of life. Local fisherman have been using the waters of Barnegat Bay to catch crabs for generations. The Barnegat Bay ecosystem is one of coastal New Jersey’s most valuable living resources, and the surrounding communities want to keep it that way! With the support of the Marine Debris Program, researchers at Stockton University are teaming up with local fishermen to remove derelict crab pots from coastal New Jersey waters. This ongoing project will continue to build off of existing relationships in the commercial crabbing industry to engage the next generation of fishermen by sharing best practices to recover derelict gear and training on how to prevent gear-loss. These best practices will prevent future crab pots from becoming harmful marine debris for years to come. 

A person on a boat standing near derelict crab traps.
Southern New Jersey crabbers are working together to recover and prevent lost fishing gear (Photo: Stockton University).

In Prince George’s County, Maryland, high school students are paving the way for a cleaner future. The Alice Ferguson Foundation is bringing their message to classrooms to educate and reduce littering behaviors in students and teachers alike. Working with the Marine Debris Program since 2005, Alice Ferguson Foundation’s new project will build on previous successes and continue to help students lead community clean ups, pilot their own litter prevention strategies, and mentor younger students. The future is bright and debris-free for these students.

There are plenty of ways to celebrate the successes of our Mid-Atlantic partners, but one group in particular is teaching us how to celebrate more sustainably. The Mid-Atlantic Regional Ocean Council on the Ocean (MARCO) in collaboration with Coastal States Stewardship Foundation knows how dangerous balloons can be when they inevitably return to the earth (or ocean), so they are working to “deflate” traditional celebratory balloon releases, especially at weddings. Their new project is building on a pilot program to implement their “Joyful Send-off” campaign that targets wedding vendors and shows, to change behaviors related to balloon releases throughout the Mid-Atlantic region.

There are lots of cool things happening in the Mid-Atlantic! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects taking place in the Mid-Atlantic and throughout the country.