Marine debris is a troubling issue around the world. For most people, it is unsightly and perhaps inconvenient, but for many it is a critical problem that has serious impacts on many aspects of life. This is especially the case for indigenous communities for whom the natural environment around the ocean is central to subsistence, recreation, culture, and economic opportunities.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sponsors a Marine Debris Program that supports multiple projects. In Alaska’s Pribilof Islands, the indigenous communities of St. George and St. Paul Islands conduct regular cleanups to protect and steward the natural resources that they depend on. They make use of unmanned aircraft system surveys to target removal and monitoring efforts.
Another NOAA-sponsored program works to clean up the Maybeso Estuary in Alaska’s Prince of Wales Islands. The project has removed 35,000 pounds of debris, freeing the flow of the salmon stream and restoring the area as a prime hotspot for fishing, boating, and outdoor recreation.
In Washington State’s Olympic Coast, the Makah Tribe has a project to locate and remove derelict crab pots and fishing lines from 80 miles of fishing area and marine sanctuary. Derelict fishing gear can trap and entangle animals, degrade habitat, imperil navigation, and interfere with fishing. The project team is working with tribal stakeholders on promoting marine debris awareness.
All of these communities have cared for the environment for generations, but marine debris poses perilous threats to their territories and community action is needed to preserve and protect these remarkable places.
Lives and Livelihoods Disrupted by Marine Debris
Photo, posted September 11, 2015, courtesy of NOAA’s National Ocean Service via Flickr.
Earth Wise is a production of WAMC Northeast Public Radio.