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

Q&A on the 2020 International Coastal Cleanup

James Roubal at 5th of July Cleanup with Washington CoastSavers On Saturday, September 19, 2020, the 35th Annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) is taking place all around the world. Started almost 30 years ago by Ocean Conservancy, the ICC brings people together to clean up trash in our coastal waters and beaches. And, for many... View Article

Successful Shoreline Cleanup Marks the Launch of Goal: Clean Seas Channel Islands and Removes 131 Lost Lobster Traps

Photo credit: Molly Troup On a bright Thursday morning in late July, two local Santa Barbara commercial lobstermen and their crews left harbor to cross the Santa Barbara Channel in their respective vessels. But on this day, they weren’t looking for lobster. They, along with a crew from Santa Barbara Channelkeeper, were looking for marine... View Article

What To Do When You See An Entangled Marine Animal

An entangled whale entangled in Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary. Photo: J. Moore/NOAA MMHSRP under Permit #18786-02 Whales, sea turtles, sea lions, and other marine animals are often seen caught in marine debris, usually fishing gear like nets and lines. With nearly 800,000 tons of fishing gear lost annually, and as much as... View Article

Tips for a Plastic-Free July

July marks an opportunity for us all to reflect on and change our own habits with Plastic Free July, a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. As part of Plastic Free July, you have the opportunity to take part in a challenge to live without single-use... View Article

What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch?

You may have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch but what is it, how did it start, and can we do anything about it?  The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the name for a collection of marine debris that accumulated over time due to converging ocean currents called gyres. Gyres are unique forms of… View Article

What is Ghost Gear?

Do you know what’s spookier than haunted houses and ghost stories? Abandoned fishing gear left to spend an eternity in the ocean and threatening marine wildlife!    What is Ghost Gear? Ghost gear is a term that refers to any fishing gear (ranging from simple monofilament fishing line to traps to huge nets and everything… View Article

Channel Islands cleanup tackles 2,300 lbs. of marine debris

On International Coastal Cleanup Day (Saturday, September 21, 2019), 21 volunteers and Channel Islands National Marine Sanctuary partners, including National Marine Sanctuary Foundation Conservation Manager Kayleigh Michaelides, boarded the R/V Shearwater headed out to sea for Santa Cruz Island on a marine debris cleanup mission. The Channel Islands are located between twelve and seventy miles… View Article

VIDEO: Spotlighting the Threat Marine Debris Poses to Wildlife in Papahānaumokuākea

    UPDATE: A recent NOAA expedition observed reef destruction from Hurricane Walaka at French Frigate Shoals, and an invasive alga overgrowing native corals and other algae at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.  To donate toward cleanup and restoration projects, click below:   The National Marine Sanctuary Foundation released a short film on the harmful effects… View Article

How You Can Help Prevent Marine Debris

When you drink coffee from a styrofoam cup or sip your favorite soda through a plastic straw, you might not be thinking of where these products end up after you’re done using them. Unfortunately, many of the disposable items we use in our daily lives find their way to the ocean and become marine debris.... View Article