The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Marine Debris Program (NOAA MDP) defines marine debris as any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes.
Marine debris can have many negative impacts, including threats to navigation, damage to ships and fishing equipment, and risks of ingestion by, and entanglement of, marine species. Debris also has the ability to smother fragile habitats such as coral reefs and seagrass beds. It affects tourism, recreation, fisheries, ecosystem functions, quality of life, and economies.
Marine debris is a global issue. However, there are solutions to this problem. We have a responsibility to protect the marine environment upon which we all depend. We will need to work together not only on tactics to assist with cleanup, but on solutions to stop the pollution at the source.
Marine debris is most easily removed from coastlines following tides that bring the materials ashore. However, trawls can be performed to collect debris that remains in the ocean.
What is Seaside doing?
Currently, Seaside Sustainability’s Marine Science team is working on initiating and facilitating marine debris trawls. Following the NOAA protocol, Seaside’s marine debris trawls involve the outrigging of nets, one to collect macro- and micro-debris and the other to provide balance, on either side of a boat, outside of the wake, as the boat travels at 1-3 knots for approximately 15 minutes. Macro-debris can be recorded and discarded and micro-debris is evaluated in a laboratory setting.
Additional individuals at Seaside Sustainability, along with a few volunteer participants from the surrounding community, have been trained in proper trawling procedure so that there are additional participants capable of collecting data from various sites. Going forward, those who have received training will continue to organize trawls to gather microplastics data.
There are also opportunities for students to get involved in these trawls!
See what we’re doing in Maine!
Nets are cast off our boats to collect floating marine debris as we performed the trawls.
Sample collection jar being filled after a completed trawl to be transported and analyzed in a laboratory setting.
The samples collected are then analyzed using laboratory facilities to separate and quantify the collected microplastics.
Only debris of a certain size is further analyzed and plastic separated from organic material. After analysis, we found that 16.8 mg of plastic were collected in the Annisquam River and 27.3 mg were collected in the Ipswich Bay. We also analyzed the number of pieces found at each location. We found that there were 16 pieces of micro plastic collected from the Annisquam River, and 10 from the Ipswich Bay.
Below please see the link to our in-depth protocol, uniquely compiled from various sources. Our protocol consists of safety procedures, an equipment list, survey methodology and quality control procedures: Marine Debris Trawl Protocol.