Marine Debris Workshop

NOAA Marine Debris Program, Plankton and Plastic Surveys, NOAA Marine Debris Forum, International Research Workshop

A broad array of representatives from government, academic, industry, and environmental organizations convened in La Jolla, California, in 2007 to review research results, identify needs, and focus on challenges and opportunities in addressing marine debris. Participants included:

  • U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
  • U.S. Department of the Interior
  • National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration
  • White House Council on Environmental Quality
  • The Ocean Conservancy
  • Keep California Beautiful and others

Organized by the American Chemistry Council’s Plastics Division, the stakeholders identified three tangible efforts aimed at solving the marine debris problem:

  • Promoting and sustaining key partnerships;
  • Developing a nationwide education strategy that promotes litter control as a cultural norm;
  • Increasing recycling, particularly of plastics, as a cornerstone of the anti-litter education effort.

Following the workshop, organizers and participants have been developing a framework for nationwide anti-litter and recycling education programs.

NOAA Marine Debris Program

The 2006 Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act established the NOAA Marine Debris Program to identify the impact of marine debris, to develop programs that prevent and clean up marine debris and to study alternatives to products that pose a threat to marine life.

NOAA’s Marine Debris Program funds research programs addressing a variety of marine debris issues, including the fate of plastics in the marine environment and potential effects on marine organisms.  

Plankton and Plastic Surveys of U.S. Ocean Waters

A research project supported by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation in partnership with the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and plastics producers (through the American Chemistry Council) conducted ocean sampling that is helping to accurately assess plastics debris in the Pacific Ocean. Sampling was conducted in conjunction with NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle, WA and NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center in La Jolla, CA to document the amount of microscopic debris particles in plankton samples, with special emphasis on plastic materials, in the Southeast Bering Sea and off the coast of Southern California, and to contribute to the development of a standardized sampling protocol for future research into the incidence and effect of small particles of plastic debris in ocean ecosystems.

NOAA Marine Debris Information Forum, April 2008

The NOAA Marine Debris Program hosted its first Marine Debris Information Forum in April 2008, which focused on marine debris research, prevention, and reduction projects around the United States. It brought together scientists, program managers, and communication specialists to discuss this important issue.

International Research Workshop on the Occurrence, Effects, and Fate of Microplastic Marine Debris, September 2008

In order to address the specific research issue of small plastics debris microplastics in the marine environment, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and the University of Washington Tacoma (UWT) coordinated a meeting that brought together scientific experts from around the world with expertise in the varied topics of microplastic occurrence and movement in the oceans, direct effects of microplastics on marine organisms, interactions of persistent organic pollutants with plastics and the potential for plastics to adsorb and desorb these pollutants in the marine environment and into organisms, and the effect plastics could have on the cycling of persistent organic pollutants.