Marine Debris Division
Marine Debris Program scientist
A NOAA Marine Debris Program scientist discusses marine debris removal in Puget Sound with a visitor to a local public event. (Vicki Loe, NOAA)

Marine debris is everyone's problem. It is a global problem affecting everything from the environment to the economy; from fishing and navigation to human health and safety; from the tiniest coral polyps to giant blue whales. Marine debris comes in many forms, from a cigarette butt tossed on the beach to a 4,000-pound tangle of derelict fishing nets caught on a coral reef.

Since 2005, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, one of three divisions within the Office of Response and Restoration, has served as a centralized program within NOAA, coordinating, strengthening, and promoting marine debris activities within the agency and among its partners and the public. The NOAA Marine Debris Program undertakes national and international efforts focused on researching, reducing, and preventing debris in the marine environment. The program continues to support and work closely with various partners across the U.S. to fulfill its mission.

Addressing the Issue

The NOAA Marine Debris Program's efforts include coordinating and assisting in the development of several regional marine debris action plans, research and development of standardized data collection methods, and work in the issue areas of abandoned vessels, derelict traps, microplastics, and the at-sea detection of derelict fishing gear. The program also offers competitive funding opportunities for marine debris–related projects, such as removal and prevention activities. Much of the program's work is done in cooperation with numerous partners that span industry, academia, government, non-governmental organizations, and the private sector.

Importance

Marine debris has many detrimental impacts on ecosystems, such as habitat degradation, entanglement, ingestion, and transportation of non-native species. Debris can even affect human health and navigation safety.

Research is beginning to reveal the scope of the issue, and this knowledge, along with new technologies, can lead to more effective solutions to the problem. Efforts to reduce and prevent marine debris decrease not only the quantities but also the impacts of debris, and over time, create an overall change in the behaviors that lead to debris. Through efforts in these areas as well as by working with partners across the U.S. and around the world, together everyone can make a difference in solving the problem of marine debris.

Learn more about marine debris and what you can do about it on the NOAA Marine Debris Program website.