We study marine debris (trash in the ocean/on the beach) both offshore and on the coast. If you participate in beach cleanup, you are contributing to this data collection effort and helping to increase our knowledge on marine pollution. We’ll use this information to develop better education and pollution prevention programs.
Coastal Debris Research
Since 2001, we have been tracking marine debris on the NH coastline using data collected at our beach cleanups. Monthly cleanups started at one beach (Jenness Beach in Rye, NH) in June 2001 and have expanded to monthly cleanups at seventeen sites (on 12 different beaches) through our Adopt-a-Beach Program, which is supported by funding from the NH Coastal Program. Data collected at the cleanups can tell us about trends in marine pollution - what types of debris are most prevalent, if debris is increasing or decreasing, and where the debris is originating (i.e. ocean or land). We can use this information to develop outreach and educational programs to hopefully help prevent pollution in the future.
Pelagic Marine Debris Research
In summer 2003, we began regularly collecting data on marine debris sightings from boats (see table below). This is not a complete study of marine pollution in the Gulf of Maine, but can give us a glimpse of the types of floating debris that are most prevalent, and help us determine the best methods to lower the impact of these pollutants on wildlife.
Pelagic Marine Debris Totals
Following is total number of different types of pelagic debris spotted by three whale watch vessels (the Atlantic Queen II, Granite State and Prince of Whales) over two seasons as they traveled to/from their home port (Rye, NH or Newburyport, MA) to their whale watching destination. Destinations varied, but the most common destination was Jeffreys Ledge.
In May-October 2005, plastic bags and balloons were the top two items found. Plastic bottles, paper and unknown plastic items were also found in large numbers. It is difficult to tell the exact source of these items, as all of them could either come from boats or drift out from shore.
In May-October 2003 and 2004, the items found in greatest numbers were balloons and plastic bags. During the summer, many fishermen use balloons as “bobbers” to tell when they have a fish on. Often, the balloons are left floating when the fishermen leave. These balloons can cause harm to marine animals who ingest them accidentally.