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Fiscal Year 2022: Researching, Preventing, and Reducing Marine Debris on our Shores

The NOAA Marine Debris Program leads national efforts to research, prevent, and reduce the adverse impacts of marine debris on the United States economy, the marine environment, and navigation safety.

The Marine Debris Program team is positioned across the country and supports Great Lakes and coastal marine debris projects and action planning in partnership with state and local agencies, tribes, nongovernmental organizations, academia, and industry. The program also spearheads national research efforts, leads interagency coordination on marine debris, responds to severe weather events, and supports marine debris removal and prevention efforts.

People among piles of garbage on a beach.
Plastic bags, fishing traps, buoys, and other debris on a New England shoreline Image credit: National Audubon Society Seabird Restoration Program.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program Awards Funding to 14 New Projects

Following a highly competitive review process, the NOAA Marine Debris Program provided approximately $3.7 million in federal funds to 14 recipients of our 2022 Marine Debris Prevention and Removal Grants. The awards include federal funding appropriated through the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement Implementation Act. Federal funding is matched by non-federal contributions, bringing the total investment in these marine debris projects to approximately $7.8 million.

Marine debris is a pervasive national and global problem that harms wildlife, navigation safety, ecosystem health, and the economy. These projects will improve habitats and other ecological resources, and help to change behaviors, raise awareness, and promote the long-term prevention of marine debris. All of the projects also incorporate justice, equity, diversity, and inclusion components, including working with tribal, environmental justice, and fishing communities that traditionally have been underserved due to lack of economic opportunity and language barriers. The Marine Debris Program is proud to support impactful, community-driven, and cost-effective projects.

Derelict fishing nets.
A mass of derelict nets removed from the reefs surrounding Midway Atoll (Kuaihelani, Pihemanu) in the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Image credit: NOAA.
Using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law Funding to Address Marine Debris

The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law provided $150 million to NOAA for marine debris assessment, prevention, mitigation, and removal for Fiscal Year 2022 through Fiscal Year 2026. This is a transformational investment in the prevention, mitigation, and removal of marine debris from coastal communities and marine ecosystems.

In June, the NOAA Marine Debris Program announced a $56 million competitive funding opportunity using Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding. The competition included two priorities: removing large marine debris and using proven interception technologies to capture marine debris throughout the coastal United States, Great Lakes, territories, and Freely Associated States. The awards will be announced in early 2023.

In September, the NOAA Marine Debris Program awarded $1 million in Bipartisan Infrastructure Law funding to the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation to support marine debris removal in Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument. Papahānaumokuākea is a sacred Native Hawaiian landscape and is home to thousands of species of fish and wildlife. This award will scale up existing removal work, build capacity for a sustainable multi-year program, and leverage more than 20 years of data to locate debris accumulation areas with increased efficiency. The grant will enable the removal of over 500 metric tons of debris in coming years.

Glass bottles, plastic waste, and other debris litter a beach
Glass bottles, plastic waste, and other debris litter a beach. Image credit: NOAA.
The NOAA Marine Debris Program Makes Progress to Save Our Seas

The NOAA Marine Debris Program completed several requirements in the Save Our Seas 2.0 Act, and continued work on the remaining mandates. In April, the NOAA Marine Debris Program announced the inaugural Board of Directors of the new Marine Debris Foundation, which was established by the Act. The twelve appointed individuals represent diverse points of view, expertise, education, and experiences relating to the assessment, prevention, reduction, and removal of marine debris. This distinguished group will help the Foundation to begin operations and start augmenting federal efforts to address marine debris. 

In March, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine announced the completion of a multifaceted study on the United States’ contribution to global ocean plastic waste. The report provides a comprehensive state of the science, as well as recommendations on potential ways to reduce the United States’ contribution to global ocean plastic waste. The NOAA Marine Debris Program is working on implementation of recommendations in the report, including development of a robust, efficient, and effective survey of marine debris on our nation’s shorelines.

Last updated Friday, December 9, 2022 6:29pm PST