Marine Debris

Marine debris is a global problem facing our world’s waters. From plastic straws to derelict fishing gear, it threatens aquatic life and sensitive habitats. Plastic alone will outweigh fish in our ocean if we fail to take strong, concerted action to reduce marine pollution.

This video, featuring music by Jack Johnson, highlights marine debris work that takes place in Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, a result of partnerships between federal agencies and non-profit organizations.

Underwater debris poses a high risk for damaging marine resources, making it a high priority for the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation. Marine debris is far from being just an eyesore. It impacts industries including fishing, tourism, and recreation, and it costs coastal economies millions of dollars each year. While the threat of marine debris looms ever-larger on the horizon, the global community is making meaningful strides toward combating this growing challenge.

What can you do to help?

  • Use your own reusable cup for your morning coffee.

  • Avoid products with excess packaging.

  • Invest in a reusable water bottle instead of using single-use plastic bottles.

  • Bring in your own reusable bag when shopping.

  • Say no to straws

  • Keep our beaches clean by taking part in beach cleanups.

The Foundation has continually made marine debris a focus during our annual Capitol Hill Ocean Week (CHOW) conference and in our conservation programs.

Related News and Blogs

Day in the Life of a Dive Operator: Captain’s Corner

Photo credit: Jen Siracusa Written by: Cortney Benson, Marine Debris Removal Stewardship Coordinator at the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, in conjunction with Jen Siracusa, Miguel Ramirez, and Justin Benson from Captain's Corner Dive Center The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation is excited to congratulate Captain’s Corner Dive Center on becoming the newest Blue Star Dive Operator in... View Article

Day in the Life of a Dive Operator: Key Dives

Mike Goldberg, the owner of Key Dives, and Amanda Hudon, the Marine Conservation Coordinator for Key Dives, pose with the Goal: Clean Seas flag after another successful cleanup in the Florida Keys. Written by: Amanda Hudon, Marine Conservation Coordinator for Key Dives  What would you say makes up for the majority of the marine debris... View Article

Star-Spangled Sanctuaries: 4 Ways to Celebrate This July 4th

For millions of Americans, the Fourth of July is synonymous with spending time outside and on the water, and it’s easy to see why. Across our 15 national marine sanctuaries, America is home to many of the world’s most spectacular seascapes, unique wildlife, and archaeological treasures. Our resplendent coastlines and rich maritime heritage offer world-class... View Article

Day in the Life of a Dive Operator: Sail Fish Scuba

Sail Fish Scuba volunteers posing in front of the marine debris they removed on their latest Goal: Clean Seas dive. They successfully removed over 1,500 pounds of marine debris from Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Maddie Cholnoky/National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Written by: Thomas Simmons of Sail Fish Scuba I’m not sure exactly what... View Article

Day in the Life of a Dive Operator: Florida Keys Dive Center

Photo credit: Florida Keys Dive Center Written by: Seanna Knight and Nate Sterns of Florida Keys Dive Center Our names are Seanna Knight and Nate Sterns, and we are the Conservation Coordinators at Florida Keys Dive Center! We both share a love for the ocean, diving, and the community associated with our daily lives both... View Article

Day in the Life of a Dive Operator: Key Dives

Cortney Benson dives in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Photo credit: Kurt Tidd Written by Cortney Benson - Operations Manager and Marine Conservation Coordinator, Key Dives Cleanup diving is an integral part of our identity at Key Dives, and it all began with Goal: Clean Seas. When I started working here 4 years ago, the... View Article

Partnering Up for a Clean Up: Coastal Cleanup Day in the Channel Islands

  Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary Affiliate, Pike Spector, helps remove lost lobster traps from the shoreline of Santa Cruz Island. Photo credit: Claire Fackler On September 3rd, Goal Clean Seas: Channel Islands kicked off Coastal Cleanup Day with a cleanup along the shore of Santa Cruz Island within Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary and... View Article

Successful shoreline cleanup gets participants into their local marine sanctuary, while getting unwanted debris out

Molly Troup from Santa Barbara Channelkeeper shows some of the most common plastic debris she picked up at Chinese Harbor. Photo Credit: Amber McEldowney On a bright Friday morning in early August, the NOAA R/V Shearwater and volunteers, two local Santa Barbara commercial lobstermen and their crews, and Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, a local NGO, left... View Article

Blue Beacon: Big Ocean Protection

Photo credit: Brad Ka‘aleleo Wong/Office of Hawaiian Affairs by Moriah Byrd, Policy Intern Large marine protected areas (LMPAs) are an essential tool to conserve marine ecosystems at-scale. Their size enables LMPAs to protect and conserve wildlife and habitats across interconnected ecosystems, managing each for their unique needs as well as for the connections within the... View Article