Protect public health and the
marine and coastal environment by increasing public awareness
of the impacts of marine debris and by working creatively to
eliminate it from our beaches and waters.
Often called beach litter,
marine debris is a major problem on beaches and in coastal waters,
estuaries, and oceans. Close to 80% of debris is washed, blown,
or dumped from shore, while 20% is from recreational boats, ships,
fishing vessels, and ocean platforms. Most marine debris is man-made
and slow to degrade, such as cigarette butts, soda cans, plastic
bags, and fishing gear. Studies have shown that marine debris
threatens over 265 different species of marine and coastal wildlife
through entanglement, smothering, and interference with digestive
systems. Ghost fishing entrapment of fish and marine mammals
by lost or abandoned nets, pots, and gear is reducing fish and
wildlife populations. In addition, certain types of marine debris,
such as broken glass and medical waste wash-ups, can pose a serious
threat to public health, causing beach closures and swimming
advisories and robbing coastal communities of significant tourism
dollars. The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers spends $ 9.4 million
annually to remove drifting and floatable debris from the New
York/ New Jersey Harbor alone.
- Implementation of effective
marine debris control measures is currently hampered by a lack
of consistent monitoring and identification of sources of debris.
- Implementation and enforcement
of local anti-litter regulations and management of debris entering
and exiting sewer systems are inadequate to effectively address
the marine debris problem.
- Marine debris can be the result
of small-scale pollution by individuals who consider their discharges
or littering to be of negligible impact compared with large-scale
polluters. However, the cumulative impact of continuous, small-scale
pollution can be dramatic.
- Plastic makes up about 60%
of the debris found on beaches. The increase in the use of various
kinds of plastic as durable, lightweight packaging has heightened
the need for proper management and disposal.
- Reestablish an interagency
marine debris working group to coordinate development and implementation
of monitoring, source identification, control, and education
programs to address and find creative solutions to the marine
- Improve controls on potential
sources of marine debris, including working with communities
to implement and enforce anti-litter laws, improve floatable
controls for local sewer systems, and employ statistical marine
debris monitoring protocols.
- Accelerate cooperative efforts
with industry, with tribal, state, and local governments, and
with environmental and fishing groups to find creative ways to
prevent and clean up marine debris and to increase public awareness
of its impacts.
- Support and encourage research
efforts to pursue new packaging technology, and increase recycling
opportunities, particularly for plastics.
For more information
During the 1998 International
Coastal Cleanup Campaign , coordinated by the Center for Marine
Conservation and sponsored by private and government donors,
over 159,000 people removed approximately 3.3 million pounds
of marine debris from 6,888 miles of U.S. shorelines. The Campaign's
efforts have led to increased recycling efforts, more trash bins
at beaches, and better federal and state laws to keep coastal