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Marine Debris Program Joins Cleanup on Cuttyhunk Island

APRIL 17, 2023 — From April 3 - April 7, the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Northeast regional coordinator, Demi Fox, joined a marine debris removal effort led by the Center for Coastal Studies on Cuttyhunk Island, Massachusetts, funded by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency through a collaboration with Restore America’s Estuaries. Lost, abandoned, and discarded lobster pots and other fishing gear have been accumulating on the island’s shores for some time, with an especially high influx following a December storm last year.

Lobster pots.
Lobster pots (traps) were staged at the island’s ferry terminal for data collection, material sorting, and crushing before they are transported off the island for recycling and disposal. Image credit: NOAA.

For this removal effort, the Center for Coastal Studies coordinated island residents, a student group from Cornell University, and artists who specialize in media including paint, sculpture, weaving, and photography featuring marine debris. The team came together and lived on Cuttyhunk Island for one week as they collected and processed the debris for reuse, recycling, or disposal.

In addition to the derelict fishing gear, the group collected dozens of bags of consumer debris including plastic bottles, balloons, bags, gloves, shoes, and other items. These materials were separated into categories and carefully counted to create a baseline data log of the debris in this location.

As Demi and partners in Rhode Island and Massachusetts (including Center for Coastal Studies) work to develop the Southern New England Marine Debris Action Plan, witnessing first hand the challenges these areas face and connecting directly with residents brings an important understanding of the necessary solutions. Collaboration between these diverse partners provided a new perspective on both the scale of the issue, and the value the items collected can still hold.

Last updated Friday, April 21, 2023 6:42pm PDT