Marine Debris in the Northern Gulf of Mexico

Project Leader: Dr. Just Cebrian

Project Details

Center for Environmental Resiliency- Univ. of South Alabama, NOAA, Northern Gulf Institute, Dauphin Island Sea Lab 

Marine debris can be defined 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. Marine debris can be found in all the world's oceans and seas and is an economic, environmental, human health, and aesthetic problem posing a complex international challenge. Despite the increasing interest in marine debris, research on its abundance, distribution, and impacts in the Gulf of Mexico is limited. We are filling this gap in knowledge by;

  1. Expanding NOAA’s Marine Debris Shoreline Monitoring Program by exploring trends in the occurrence, type, and accumulation rate of marine debris on barrier islands.
  2. Creating a tool to prioritize the removal of hazardous debris (namely derelict vessels) from the watershed.
  3. Determining the presence, abundance, distribution and composition of microplastics.
  4. Quantifying the abundance and potential impacts of persistent organic pollutants adsorbed into microplastics.

The increase in the amount of trash being thrown away along with the very slow rate most items breakdown, is leading to an increase in the amount of litter found in the ocean and along the shoreline. Over 6.4 million tons of litter reaches our oceans every year and this number will continue to increase unless we understand the impacts it is having on the environment and come up with manageable solutions to the ever increasing amount of disposable waste.

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