1. Education
You can opt-out at any time. Please refer to our privacy policy for contact information.

Marine Debris


Bag of Marine Debris / Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation

Bag of marine debris collected at a beach cleanup.

© Jen Kennedy, Blue Ocean Society for Marine Conservation

Marine debris is something in the marine environment (such as in the ocean or on the beach) that doesn't naturally occur there. The more technical definition, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is:

"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."

Examples Of Marine Debris

Examples of marine debris include beach litter like cigarette butts, plastic bags, and balloons - items commonly found on beach cleanups. It can also include items that wash in from the ocean, such as fishing line, ropes, nets and traps, and items from ships such as items from cruise ships and lost cargo from container ships.

Threats of Marine Debris

Marine debris threatens both people and wildlife. On the beach, people can step on debris such as broken glass, and children can put debris like discarded cigarette butts into their mouths. In the water, debris can damage boats and present a safety hazard for divers.

Marine debris threatens wildlife through entanglement and ingestion. Animals such as whales and sea turtles have died from ingesting items such as plastic bags.

One way to stop the threat of marine debris is to dispose of your waste responsibly, recycle and reuse as much as possible, and reduce packaging on the items you buy. Another is to participate in a beach cleanup such as the International Coastal Cleanup.

Volunteers cleaned up thousands of pounds of marine debris, including old tires, straws, and candy wrappers, during the beach cleanup.
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Marine Life
  4. Marine Life 101
  5. Glossary - Marine Life and Marine Biology Terms
  6. Marine Debris - What Is Marine Debris

©2014 About.com. All rights reserved.