Tackling Marine Debris in the Gulf of Mexico

Posted Tue, 01/24/2017 - 10:30

Photo of Caitlin Wessel.Meet Caitlin Wessel, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Gulf of Mexico Regional Coordinator! Caitlin has a broad background in both education and research, with a B.S. from the University of Pittsburgh and a M.S. from Coastal Carolina University in Coastal, Marine, and Wetland Studies. In her downtime, Caitlin can be found working towards her PhD in Marine Science from the University of South Alabama and the Dauphin Island Sea Lab, scuba diving, kayaking, or hiking with her puppies. For questions about the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Gulf of Mexico efforts, reach out to Caitlin at caitlin.wessel@noaa.gov!

Marine debris is an issue throughout the country and unfortunately, the Gulf of Mexico is no different. To address this problem, we first must work to prevent trash from becoming marine debris and we do this through education and outreach. Unfortunately, there’s enough debris out there that we must also work to remove it. Check out some of the efforts currently underway to prevent and remove debris in the Gulf:

Sea Turtle, Inc. is working to prevent marine debris by developing bilingual signage on South Padre Island, Texas. They’re also developing a display and educational programs for students to learn about marine debris, its impacts on wildlife (like sea turtles), and the ways we can help prevent it. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

Graphic of a sea turtle taking a bite of a bottle and a photo of a bottle with turtle bites taken out.
This project is focusing on educating the Lower Laguna Madre community about the impacts of debris on marine life, such as the ingestion of debris. In the photo on the right, you can clearly see sea turtle bites taken out of a plastic bottle. (Photo Credit: NOAA (left) and Sea Turtle, Inc. (right))

Ship Island Excursions is also working to prevent marine debris in the Gulf by educating students and community members in Southern Mississippi. As part of this project, they are providing marine debris education to coastal Mississippi students and providing outreach to passengers aboard the Ship Island Ferry through an interactive kiosk, signage, and marine educators and student ambassadors. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

A group of students on a pier.
Ship Island Excursions is educating students, teachers, and community members in coastal Mississippi. (Photo Credit: Ship Island Excursions)

To address the debris that’s already in our waters and on our shores, the Alabama Department of Conservation and Natural Resources is monitoring and removing derelict crab traps in Southern Alabama. They are leading three volunteer removal programs to remove and dispose of derelict crab traps, identifying and counting the animals that have been inadvertently caught by the traps, and monitoring the area to assess the removal efforts. For more information on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

Also working to remove marine debris from the Gulf of Mexico is the Galveston Bay Foundation. They are working to improve habitat and access to Galveston Bay by removing large debris items such as abandoned and derelict vessels from Chocolate Bayou, Texas. For more on this project, check out the project profile on our website.

Derelict vessels partially submerged in water.
The Galveston Bay Foundation is working to remove large debris items from Galveston Bay, Texas. (Photo Credit: Galveston Bay Foundation)

There are lots of cool things going on in the Gulf of Mexico! Keep your eye on our blog this week for more, and check out our website for more interesting marine debris projects in the Gulf and throughout the country!