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Sea Grant's Work in Marine Debris Prevention & Removal

Sea Grant works closely with communities across the country to address marine debris challenges in marine, coastal and Great Lakes environments. Through research, extension and education, Sea Grant is informing and enhancing strategies to prevent the creation of marine debris and remove marine debris from the environment.

 

Sea Grant works in close partnership with the NOAA Marine Debris Program to address marine debris in coastal and Great Lakes environments.

 

Learn about NOAA Marine Debris Program

 

Continue reading to learn about marine debris, Sea Grant’s funding opportunities related to this topic and Sea Grant’s on-going activities.

A group of volunteers of all ages with bags of trash consisting of marine debris found along the beach.

Photo Credit: South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium

What is
marine debris?
 

As one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world’s ocean and waterways, our waters are filled with marine debris, items that do not belong in it. Marine debris includes any manufactured or processed solid material that is directly, indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally disposed of or abandoned in the marine environment or the Great Lakes. Read more about marine debris here.

Photo Credit: Oregon Sea Grant

A picture of a shark sculpture created using found marine debris and on display in Oregon.

How is marine
debris harmful?
 

When marine debris is in our waters and on our shores, beaches and public recreation areas are impacted, affecting ecotourism and local economies. The Great Lakes economy relies heavily on tourism and recreation by maintaining healthy coastal resources while keeping the environment clean. Beach-goers and visitors can be impacted by marine debris as well as these items can cause physical bodily harm if found on shorelines or in the water. Human consumption of marine debris is also possible if small particles are accidentally ingested, however potential health risks from different plastics and chemicals are still unknown.

While marine debris is harmful to people, our ecosystems and the economy, it can be especially detrimental to wildlife. Gall and Thompson documented marine debris impacting over 700 species including plankton, invertebrates, fish, sea birds, sea turtles and cetaceans. Ghost gear and abandoned nets can result in entanglement, causing harm or even death to wildlife. Items like plastic bags, balloons and straws can be mistaken as food. As these foreign materials break apart into smaller pieces, they can be mistaken for even smaller species like plankton or zooplankton, which are a vital source of nutrients at the beginning of the food chain. Ingestion of foreign materials is harmful for animals as they can be severely punctured by the materials, or have a false sense of full appetite. Read more about why marine debris is a problem here.

Photo Credit: Rhode Island Sea Grant
Found marine debris, including trash and a Monopoly board, along a beach dune. 

What can we do to
mitigate the impacts of
marine debris?

Being aware of how to properly dispose of fishing line and garbage can greatly reduce impacts to marine ecosystems. Beach cleanups are another great way to combat shoreline trash while collectively working together to reduce debris in public areas. Reducing reliability on single-use plastics can also greatly reduce the amount of marine debris entering our waterways and marine ecosystems. Read more about how to help here.

Photo Credit: South Carolina Sea Grant Consortium
A group of young girls outside of an estuary with bags of trash consisting of marine debris found on a beach.


Sea Grant Funding Opportunities

Sea Grant recently announced $19 million in federal funding opportunities to address the prevention and removal of marine debris. 

  • Marine Debris Challenge Competition: Approximately $16,000,000 will be available to support innovative research to application projects that will address the prevention and removal of marine debris.
  • Marine Debris Community Action Coalitions: Approximately $3,000,000 will be available to support the creation of coalitions and partnerships to address marine debris prevention and removal.

Letters of intent and applications for both opportunities must be submitted through a Sea Grant Program and interested partners should contact a Sea Grant Program. (Note: As of August 17, 2022, the deadlines to submit letters of intent have passed.) 

Both opportunities encourage applicants and awardees to support the principles of justice, equity, diversity, inclusion and accessibility when writing their proposals and performing their work. The work completed under these opportunities will place an emphasis on engagement with communities, groups and localities, especially those that have been traditionally underrepresented and underserved.

These opportunities are a component of nearly $3 billion in targeted investments for NOAA in the areas of habitat restoration, coastal resilience and weather forecasting infrastructure through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

 

Learn more about funding opportunities


Featured Sea Grant Impacts on Marine Debris


Marine Debris Stories and News

Sea Grant announces funding opportunities to support community-engaged marine debris removal and prevention

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Sea Grant announces funding opportunities to support community-engaged marine debris removal and prevention

Sea Grant announces $19 million in federal funding opportunities to address the prevention and removal of marine debris. These opportunities are a component of nearly $3 billion in targeted investments for NOAA in the areas of habitat restoration, coastal resilience and weather forecasting infrastructure through the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.
 

Connecting STEM to Student Roots: USC Sea Grant Intern Aids in Beach Cleanup Efforts

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Connecting STEM to Student Roots: USC Sea Grant Intern Aids in Beach Cleanup Efforts

Daniela Loera, USC Sea Grant’s 2021 Community Engaged Intern, recently completed the summer internship with an emphasis on informing policy and engaging communities about their influence on beaches through beach cleanups.

NOAA Sea Grant-Marine Debris Program partnership continues to address marine debris challenges with six new projects

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NOAA Sea Grant-Marine Debris Program partnership continues to address marine debris challenges with six new projects

NOAA Sea Grant and the NOAA Marine Debris Program announce the funding of six new, creative projects to tackle marine debris challenges across the country. This year’s projects focus on preventing the introduction of marine debris into marine, coastal and Great Lakes environments.

Sea Grant responds to COVID-19-related challenges across the country

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Sea Grant responds to COVID-19-related challenges across the country

As the country adapts to changes necessitated by the COVID-19 pandemic, coastal and Great Lakes communities, too, are rethinking how to resume what were once normal activities. Sea Grant programs are leading efforts to provide relief to the communities they serve. Read about a few of the initiatives Sea Grant created or enhanced in recent months.

Decreasing Marine Debris: From Coastal Communities to National Efforts

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Decreasing Marine Debris: From Coastal Communities to National Efforts

By: Amanda Dwyer. One of the Knauss Fellowship’s most exciting opportunities is to explore areas of marine science that are outside your academic field of expertise. With my placement at the NOAA Marine Debris Program, I am working to support NOAA’s National Ocean Service (NOS) Zero Waste Initiative to promote zero waste efforts in the organization’s daily operations and events.

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