Marine Debris in the Mid-Atlantic Ocean
Debris is a problem for a number of reasons:
- Debris can snare boat propellers or clog cooling water intakes, causing substantial damage to boat motors.
- Pieces of glass and metal can cut beachgoers and wildlife.
- Sewage and medical wastes can contaminate beach waters and sicken swimmers.
- Marine animals can become caught in discarded fishing nets and lines, grocery bags, six-pack rings, ribbons, and other floating debris.
- Some animals mistakenly eat the man-made materials. Endangered sea turtles, for example, consume floating trash bags and balloons, likely mistaking them for jellyfish. Several seabird species have been found to swallow plastic pieces and cigarette butts. These materials can damage the animals' digestive systems. In addition, animals may stop eating because their stomachs feel full and starve to death.
- Tourists may not visit shore areas that have debris on the beaches and in the water, causing an economic hardship.
Find out how to participate in the National Marine Debris Monitoring Program, a joint effort of EPA and the Ocean Conservancy. This program has been designed to scientifically determine whether marine debris is increasing or decreasing along our nation's coastlines and identify the major sources of the debris.