Marine debris is any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material disposed of or abandoned,
intentionally or unintentionally, into the marine environment. It comes in many
forms, from tiny plastic nurdles
to a 4,000-pound derelict fishing net. It is most visible as litter - plastic bottles and caps,
rope, broken bits of plastic - that lines our beaches. Marine debris also is found in the water
column and on the seafloor, primarily in the form of derelict fishing gear.
Contact for page content: Liam Antrim
The earthquake that struck Japan in March 2011 was followed by a tsunami, which carried many tons
of debris into the ocean. Some of this debris stayed afloat, is drifting across the Pacific Ocean,
and mingling with marine debris transported by winds and currents. Debris linked with the tragedy
in Japan started arriving on our shores early in 2012, but the majority of the
Japan tsunami marine debris is predicted to reach the Washington
coast after the fall of 2012. Materials originating from this tsunami tell a fascinating story of
marine debris circulation in the Pacific Ocean. Increased volumes of shoreline debris are expected
to require more beach cleanups in coming years to reduce threats to
wildlife and restore our ocean shores to their natural beauty.
Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary helps to organize beach cleanups
and looks for opportunities to collaborate in efforts to locate, assess impacts, and remove
derelict fishing gear.
Marine debris is a global problem that threatens oceans and coasts, marine life, our economy, safe
navigation, and human health and safety. Although marine debris is found worldwide, each of us can
all help with small actions. Reduce your use of plastics and food packaging, reuse containers,
recycle and dispose of waste in an appropriate manner. On your next beach walk, carry some beach
litter back for appropriate disposal or join an organized beach cleanup
to enjoy the group stewardship energy!
If we each do a little, together we can make a big difference.
NOAA's Marine Debris Program
supports national and international efforts to research, prevent, and reduce the impacts of marine
debris. This program serves as a centralized capability within NOAA, coordinating and supporting
activities within NOAA and with other federal agencies, as well as using partnerships to support
projects carried out by state and local agencies, tribes, non-governmental organizations, academia,