Cleaning North America's Beaches—Volunteers Across America Monitor the Quality of Our Coasts

by Kathryn J. O'Hara, Cent for Marine Conservation, Washington, United States,

Document Type: Proceeding Paper

Part of: Coastal Zone '91


The Center for Marine Conservation (CMC) has established a National Marine Debris Database to involve citizens in the collection of standardized information on marine debris. A comparison of data from the 1988 and 1989 national beach cleanups showed that the composition of trash found on America's beaches has remained relatively unchanged despite the enactment of an international ban on ocean dumping of plastics. Plastics still account for most of the trash or approximately 63%. In 1989, approximately 60% of all debris was packaging and disposable plastic products. Debris from ocean sources was found to be most prevalent in states bordering the Gulf of Mexico and North Pacific. More than 70 items reported were traceable to specific cruise line companies. Inadequate sewer systems, a land-based source of debris, are of particular concern in northeast coastal states and the Great Lakes. Volunteers also reported 65 cases of wildlife entanglement or ingestion of debris, most of which were birds entangled in plastic fishing line.

Subject Headings: Ecological restoration | Beaches | Debris | Coastal management | Solid wastes | Plastics | Synthetic materials | Water pollution | North America | Gulf of Mexico | Great Lakes

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