Using reusable materials and being mindful of where our trash goes seems to be a trendy topic, but regardless marine debris continues to be one of the biggest threats to our oceans today. Researchers don’t even know how much plastic is in our oceans! Marine debris doesn’t just mean plastics, but anything that is solid and has been disposed of or abandoned in a marine environment or the Great Lakes. This means metals, rubber, paper, textiles, fishing gear, sunken vessels, and other lost items. Even biodegradable plastics can be hazardous to the waterways as they are designed to break down on land, not in the oceans.
Marine debris can easily travel all over the world, so a piece of trash discarded here in the East Coast can end up far from its origin due to wind, gyres, and ocean currents. One of the most famous examples of this is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California. The ocean currents spiral around this specific location and trash gets caught in the gyre causing a floating landfill. It’s estimated there is hundreds or even thousands of times as much plastic floating in our oceans worldwide than there is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch!
Marine debris, as you can imagine, damages the environment and seafarers in many ways. Marine animals ingest plastics which can damage their digestive systems. Trash damages delicate marine habitats, such as coral reefs. Animals easily get trapped in old fishing gear left in the ocean, as well as string, packing bands, rubber bands, and ropes. This is called ghost fishing. Marine debris can lead to invasive species if an organism attaches to debris that ends up far from where this species is native to. For those of us who live on the coast and enjoy boating, marine debris can be a real eyesore! Nobody wants to see trash littering the beaches or the waterways. Not to mention, debris can easily damage vessels by getting caught in propellers, causing a clogged intake, or damaging the bottom of a vessel.
International Clean Up Day
Here at NESS, we know how important it is for us boaters, sailors, ocean adventure sport athletes, and ocean enthusiasts to be good stewards of our environment. Every year, we join NAMEPA (North American Marine Environment Protection Association) and the Westerly Recreation Department to organize a beach cleanup for the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup Day (ICCD). This day began over 30 years ago when communities began collecting and documenting trash littering their coastlines. This initiative helps figure out where trash is coming from and how to eliminate ocean trash in the future. Today, ICCD spans over 100 countries every year! Last year alone, close to 800,000 volunteers collected more than 20 million pieces of trash from coasts all over the world.
Get the App
Download the Marine Debris Tracker (iPhone) (Google Play) and host your own beach cleanup! This app was created by Jenna Jambeck, an environmental engineer at the University of Georgia who is a consultant for the Ocean Conservancy. The app allows anyone anywhere in the world to track how much marine debris they collect.
1) Choose the Rozalia Project list
2) Enter data
3) Submit and enter
Go get em’ Marine Debris Team!