Marine Debris Issues in Maryland and Beyond

A bird entangled in balloons lying on a stony beach. Photo by Christine  McGuinness. Clean-Virginia-Waterways Three people walking on the beach with garbage bags picking up marine debris.

Marine debris is defined by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 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 or the Great Lakes. Anything man-made, including litter and fishing gear, can become marine debris once lost, discarded, or washed into the aquatic environment. The most common materials that make up marine debris are plastics, glass, metal, paper, cloth, rubber, and wood. Marine debris is a complex global problem with disturbing impacts to aquatic life and our environment. Research has also shown that very small pieces of marine debris (called "microplastics" and "microfibers") are present in our drinking water, sea salt, and seafood.

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