NOAA's Response and Restoration Blog

An inside look at the science of cleaning up and fixing the mess of marine pollution


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Fishing for Energy: Where Old Fishing Gear Goes to Retire

This is a post by the NOAA Marine Debris Program’s Anna Manyak.

Although consumer debris is the most commonly collected item during beach cleanups, below the water lies another form of debris that is equally prevalent and harmful: derelict fishing gear.  Defined as gear that has been lost or abandoned in the marine environment, derelict fishing gear poses a huge threat to marine organisms and the environment through impacts such as entanglements and ghost fishing.  It consists of any items used for recreational or commercial fishing activities, such as nets, pots, ropes, and fishing line.

Derelict stone crab pot in Florida

A derelict stone crab pot rests on the bottom of the ocean in waters off the Florida coast. (NOAA)

When the Marine Debris Program was established through the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act of 2006, the program was charged with the “development of effective non-regulatory measures and incentives to cooperatively reduce the volume of lost and discarded fishing gear and to aid in its recovery.”  In essence, we needed to develop a program to keep fishing gear from becoming marine debris.  Enter the Fishing for Energy program.

Fishing for Energy is a partnership between Covanta Energy, the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, the NOAA Marine Debris Program, and Schnitzer Steel, designed to provide a cost free disposal solution for derelict or otherwise unusable fishing gear to commercial fishermen across the nation.  The program gives fishermen a place to dispose of derelict gear they come across while on the water and eases the financial burden associated with the disposal of unusable fishing gear in landfills.  By placing bins at busy fishing ports, the program significantly increases the likelihood that derelict gear does not become marine debris.

Disposing of derelict fishing gear in a Fishing for Energy bin.

Disposing of derelict fishing gear in a Fishing for Energy bin. Photo courtesy of the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

How does Fishing for Energy work?  The partnership strategically places dumpsters at busy fishing ports around the country, where commercial fishermen can easily dispose of old, unusable fishing gear.

Full dumpsters of collected gear are then transported to local Schnitzer Steel facility, where metal gear is recycled and nets and pots are sheared for easier disposal.  From there, the gear is brought to the local Covanta Energy facility where gear, such as ropes and nets, are burned as a source of renewable energy to power local communities.

Today, Fishing for Energy is represented in 9 states and 31 ports across the country.  Since its establishment in 2008, about 750 tons of gear (nearly 1.5 million pounds!) have been prevented from becoming marine debris.

Interested in learning more?  Follow our Fishing for Energy blog series as we dive deeper into the issue of derelict fishing gear and the process of turning marine debris into energy.

Originally posted on the Marine Debris Blog.

Anna Manyak is Northeast Regional Coordinator and Knauss Fellow with the NOAA Marine Debris Program.


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With Tropical Storm Isaac’s Passing, Crews Resume Cutting Apart Grounded Ship and Protecting Coral at Mona Island, Puerto Rico

Response barges are anchored near the grounded M/V Jireh.

August 20, 2012 — Response barges are anchored near the M/V Jireh (foreground), which grounded on coral reefs in June. (U.S. Coast Guard/Jaclyn Young)

With the passage of the Tropical Storm formerly known as Hurricane Isaac, salvage crews and coral ecologists are once again back on Mona Island, Puerto Rico, working to remove the grounded freighter M/V Jireh while also protecting the island’s corals.

In previous ship salvage cases involving coral habitats, biologists have observed considerable coral damage from not only the physical placement of anchors, cables, and support vessels, but also continued shifting and grinding from the grounded vessel. As a result, crews are working carefully to keep that from happening here.

In such a long and complicated salvage project, it is impossible to prevent all impacts, but crews are continuing to remove and reattach corals at risk from the grounded ship. Nearly 1,000 corals have been moved already. These transplanted corals are expected to have a high survival rate and reduce the overall impacts from the vessel removal operation.

A NOAA-authorized biologist is on site during all coral relocation operations to make sure corals are properly handled and reattached to reefs. Before responders attempt to refloat the vessel, qualified divers will evaluate the corals in the area and determine an exit path for the damaged ship that will have the least impact to the surrounding coral habitat. This may or may not turn out to be the same path the ship took when it entered the reef. Depending on conditions after the vessel’s removal, the coral colonies may be relocated back to their original place on the reef.

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The U.S. Coast Guard and the rest of the response crew have been working carefully to cut up portions of the ship, in order to lighten the vessel enough to refloat and remove it from the reef. Once disassembled, the removed portions of the ship are loaded onto a barge and taken to Puerto Rico for recycling.

Additionally, since the grounding on June 21, crews already have removed 600 tons of oiled cargo and more than 5,000 gallons of oil-water mixture.

Here you can see their plan for removing and disposing of this damaged vessel.

Jireh removal and disposal process.

Jireh removal and disposal process. (Jireh Grounding Unified Command)

Once the ship is refloated, the plan is to scuttle (purposefully sink) the wreck 12 miles away from Mona Island. After it is sunk, the wreckage is not expected to pose any additional risk to corals or other marine life. The difference with this shipwreck is the location.

“Intertidal wrecks are unstable and scour the reefs as they degrade and fall apart, while a wreck far out at sea becomes a stable deep-water habitat over time,” said Doug Helton, Incident Operations Coordinator for the Office of Response and Restoration.

The Coast Guard reports that removing the Jireh from Mona Island is the best solution to protect the sensitive environment and coral reefs surrounding this highly valuable natural reserve. Once this threat is permanently removed, NOAA divers will conduct an assessment of the grounding area and continue to work with local environmental agencies to ensure its full recovery.


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The Toxicity of Oil: What’s the Big Deal?

This is a post by the Office of Response and Restoration’s Mary Evans.

Dealing with a major oil spill is a huge effort, sometimes requiring billions of dollars and involving hundreds, even thousands of people. Yet, oil is a natural material that seeps from the ground or into the ocean in many locations around the world.

So why is it so important to respond to an oil spill, anyway? The main reason is that oil is also a toxic material that can cause environmental damage where it spills. The central purpose of oil spill response is to reduce that damage.

Toxic Effects

We call something toxic if it harms living things. The amount of harm caused depends on how an organism is exposed and to how much oil. For example, crude oil is considered toxic and causes two main kinds of injury: physical and biochemical.

NOAA veterinarian holding an oiled sea turtle.

Dr. Brian Stacy, NOAA veterinarian, prepares to clean an oiled Kemp’s Ridley turtle during the response to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. Veterinarians and scientists from NOAA, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, and other partners worked under the Unified Command to capture heavily-oiled young turtles 20 to 40 miles offshore as part of animal rescue and rehabilitation efforts. Credit: NOAA and Georgia Department of Natural Resources.

The physical effects of freshly spilled crude oil are all too obvious. You’ve likely seen the disturbing images of birds and other animals coated in crude oil, struggling to survive. When oil washes ashore, it can completely cover and smother the plants and animals living there. Crude oil not only destroys the insulating properties of animal fur and bird feathers, which can lead to hypothermia, but it also impairs animals’ abilities to fly and swim, sometimes causing oiled animals to drown.

During the months after the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, researchers collected about 30,000 dead birds–ranging over 90 different species–from the oiled areas, and they estimated that perhaps ten times as many birds died.

Spilled oil also can harm life because its chemical constituents are poisonous. As we previously learned, petroleum-derived oil is a complex mixture of thousands of chemical compounds. Given oil’s chemical complexity, we need to consider how these different components—and their very different effects on living things—cause harm.

Breaking It Down

Let’s look at two important components of crude oil: volatile organic compounds (VOCs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs). In terms of how long they remain in the environment, they represent two ends of a spectrum.

All crude oil contains VOCs, which readily evaporate into the air, giving crude oil a distinctive odor. Some VOCs are acutely toxic when inhaled, in addition to being potentially cancer-causing. At the site of a fresh oil spill, these VOCs can threaten nearby residents, responders working on the spill, air-breathing marine mammals, and sea turtles at the water surface. However, VOCs are generally a response concern only right after oil is spilled, because oil floating on the sea surface quickly loses its VOCs.

Heavy residual oiling remains in sediments.

Years after the Exxon Valdez oil spill, heavy residual oiling remains in sediments of Smith Island in Prince William Sound, Alaska, June 2011. (David Janka, R/V Auklet, NOAA)

In contrast, PAHs can persist in the environment for many years, in some cases continuing to harm organisms long after the oil first spills. How PAHs in oil do that is an active area of research.

For example, our colleagues at NOAA’s Auke Bay Laboratory near Juneau, Alaska, investigated the possible biological effects of oil that spilled from the Exxon Valdez in 1989 but still remains at very low concentrations in weathered oil in beach sediments at locations scattered around Prince William Sound.

The Auke Bay Lab researchers conducted a series of studies that continued for more than a decade. They found that even though the levels of PAHs leaching from weathered oil buried in beach sediments were very low, the PAHs still caused negative effects to incubating herring and salmon eggs. The good news from these studies is that over the years, the concentration of PAHs has declined in the Sound’s beach sediments, to the point that those particular toxic effects on fish eggs have diminished as well. However, at a few sites in the Sound, sea otters are eating clams that may continue to be contaminated by leaching PAHs in buried oil.

The Northwest Fisheries Science Center, another NOAA research laboratory in Seattle, Wash., has studied the chemical physiology of how PAHs harm developing fish. The researchers found that some PAHs in oil inhibit proper heart development in fish embryos, which can either kill the fish outright or make them more susceptible to predation and disease.

With so many varying factors coming into play, predicting the impacts of an oil spill can be quite challenging. It’s important to know the specific chemical makeup of an oil (and how that makeup changes over time as the oil weathers). This information will give us clues about how that oil will interact with organisms and the environment and, hopefully, will help us figure out how to keep those impacts low.

Mary Evans.Mary Evans provides science communication and research analysis
support to OR&R’s Emergency Response Division in Seattle. She develops educational and training materials and research reports, helps out with oil spill responses and the division’s training programs, and has taught emergency response courses in the U.S. and abroad.


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Small Japanese Boat Found near Vancouver Island, Canada, Even as Summer Currents Hold Marine Debris at Bay for now

Small boat on rocky shore.

The small boat which washed up on remote Spring Island, British Columbia, Canada, was positively identified as a vessel lost during the 2011 Japan tsunami. Credit: Kevin Head.

On remote Spring Island, northwest of Vancouver Island, Canada, a small boat inscribed with Japanese characters washed up with the tide this summer. A Canadian provincial official has confirmed this boat was lost during the 2011 Japan tsunami. Emergency Management British Columbia matched the serial number on the boat’s hull with one on the Japanese consulate’s list of vessels lost due to the tsunami. Eric Gorbman, who owns a nearby resort, and Kevin Head found and reported the boat on August 9, 2012.

A Summer Decrease in Debris

While this brings the total number of confirmed tsunami debris sightings to 11, summer weather patterns have created a lull in debris turning up on nearby Washington’s coast. This has the state Department of Ecology taking back some of the additional trash receptacles they provided near public access points earlier this summer. Recent decreases in reported marine debris in these areas, along with reports of someone using them to dump household waste, led to the removal.

“We want to ensure we are stretching our dollars as far as we can,” said Peter Lyon, a Washington Department of Ecology regional manager. “In June, when the boxes were placed along beaches, a southwest wind pattern directed more debris ashore in those areas than we are seeing now. When weather patterns shift again in the fall, we are likely to see higher amounts of debris again. So we want to conserve our resources in case that happens.”

The Washington Department of Ecology states that the trash bins can be easily and quickly redeployed within about 24 hours to accommodate possible increases in marine debris in the future. The funding to stock the bins and litter bags came from Department of Ecology’s litter account, setting aside $100,000 to deal with marine debris. These supplies help support community and volunteer efforts to collect and dispose of debris on Washington beaches.

Where Is the Debris Now?

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration has oceanographers Glen Watabayashi and Amy MacFadyen using our GNOME model to give us an understanding of where debris from the tsunami may be located today. GNOME is a software modeling tool used to predict the possible route pollutants might follow in a body of water, and we use it most frequently during an oil spill.

Our oceanographers are incorporating into this model how the winds and ocean currents since the tsunami may have moved items through the Pacific Ocean. However, rather than forecasting when debris will reach U.S. shores in the future, this model uses data from past winds and currents to show possible patterns of where debris may be concentrated right now.

“For me the story is not what’s been found but what hasn’t been found,” said NOAA oceanographer Glen Watabayashi. “With all the summer vessel traffic along the West Coast and out in the North Pacific, there have been no reports of any large concentrations of debris.”

Learn more at http://marinedebris.noaa.gov/tsunamidebris/.


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Let’s Get Chemical: What Is Oil?

This is a post by Vicki Loe with OR&R chemist Robert Jones. Technical review by Robert Jones and OR&R biologist Gary Shigenaka.

Emulsified oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP spill pooled on marsh vegetation.

Emulsified oil from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP spill remains on, and pooled below, vegetation in Pass a Loutre, La., following a previous week’s storm. Image shot on May 22, 2010. (NOAA)

I recently began an ongoing conversation on this blog about our relationship with oil and oil products and the large part oil plays in all of our lives. Walking through just the first hour of a typical day for me, I managed to list 20 products I use that come from oil. But for something that we all depend on every day, how much do we really understand about what it is and why it’s so useful?

As most of us know, oil comes from beneath the ground. It is made of dead animal and plant matter, buried deep under layers of sedimentary rock. Pressure and heat cause oil deposits to form over long periods of time. But what is oil at its most basic?

Diagram of the molecular structure of benzene.

A diagram of the molecular structure of benzene, an aromatic hydrocarbon and component of oil.

Oil is a complex mixture of molecular compounds.  A molecule is the smallest unit of a substance that retains the substance’s characteristics. Molecules, in turn, are composed of atoms.  There are only 90 naturally occurring types of atoms on earth; these form the basis of the innumerable types of molecules found in nature.

Crude oils, while mixtures of thousands of types of molecular compounds, are predominantly composed of only two types of atoms: hydrogen (H) and carbon (C). Molecular compounds composed exclusively of these two elements are called hydrocarbons.

Petroleum hydrocarbons are predominantly one of two types, aromatics or alkanes. Aromatics, which are based on a 6-carbon ring, tend to be the molecular compounds in oil that are the most toxic to marine life. A notable case is polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), which have multiple carbon rings and can also be quite persistent in the environment. Alkanes, on the other hand, tend to be less toxic and are much more readily biodegraded naturally; most can be ingested as food by some microorganisms.

For example, the oil spilled from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP well blow-out was relatively high in alkanes and relatively low in PAHs. But, like all crude oils, it contained benzene, toluene, and xylene, which belong to the single-ring aromatic group. Benzene is very toxic and known to cause cancer but is not as persistent as PAHs.

Oil in marsh vegetation during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill.

Oil in marsh vegetation during the 2010 Deepwater Horizon/BP oil spill. (NOAA)

Refining crude oil to produce fuel oils like gasoline and diesel does not significantly alter the molecular structure of the oil’s components. So fuel oils usually contain the same types of molecular compounds that are found in their parent crude oils.

Different chemical compounds can be extracted from crude oil and then recombined or altered to make what are called petrochemicals. Petrochemicals are used to make a vast array of products, including acetic acid, ammonia, polyvinyl chloride, polyethylene, lubricants, adhesives, agrochemicals, fragrances, food additives, packaging, paint, and pharmaceutical products. And that’s just the start!

NOAA’s Office of Response and Restoration is the primary science adviser to the U.S. Coast Guard during a major oil spill. Knowledge of the chemical make-up of the particular oil, whether it is a crude oil or refined fuel oil, is critical in making response decisions when there is spill. Among the scientists that work in OR&R’s Emergency Response Division are chemists that are experts in this field.

Crude oil is predominantly a mixture of hydrocarbons, but every crude oil is a unique mixture of molecular compounds. There are thousands of named crude oils in use around the world. Our chemists make recommendations by determining the source of the spill and the optimal cleanup methods and safety issues, based on the unique properties of the oil released.

The next blog post in this series will delve into the toxicity of oil and the harm it can cause when accidentally released into the marine environment. Look for it coming soon!

Robert Jones

Robert Jones

Co-author Robert Jones is a chemist in OR&R’s Emergency Response Division. He is a member of the spill response team and is involved in the development of computer models used to predict the fate and transport of oil and other chemicals in the environment. Robert received his Ph.D. in Physical Chemistry from Indiana University. Prior to joining NOAA in 1990, Robert taught chemistry at Western Washington University.


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With Restoration, Will Willamette River Lampreys Rebound for Northwest Tribes?

This is a post by Office of Response Restoration’s Robert Neely and Restoration Center’s Lauren Senkyr.

It’s mid-summer, and something amazing is happening at Willamette Falls, a pounding cascade of water about 30 minutes from downtown Portland, Oregon. People are balancing on mossy, wet boulders tucked among the falls, reaching into its waters to harvest Pacific lamprey by hand.

A tribal member holds two lampreys in his hands.

Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Tribal member Torey Wakeland displays some lamprey that were harvested at Willamette Falls on Monday, July 18, 2011. (Photo courtesy of Ron Karten.)

After pouring over the falls, the Willamette River rolls on for nearly 30 miles before joining the Columbia River.

Prior to the construction of dams throughout the Columbia River basin, which includes the Willamette River and its tributaries, native Americans harvested lampreys in many other locations in much the same way they do now at Willamette Falls: by braving the cascading water and slippery rocks to grab wriggling lamprey by hand or with dip nets.

Northwest tribes have relied on the lamprey for food, medicinal, and ceremonial purposes for generations, since long before the first European explorers and fur traders became aware of these falls. But virtually all of the tribes’ historic collection spots are gone now, either because they are submerged under dam-impounded waters or because lampreys are absent, their upstream journey blocked by dams. Willamette Falls is the last place in the Columbia basin where tribes can collect lampreys as their ancestors did.

So it’s not surprising that the tribes are concerned about the Willamette River lamprey and the rest of the Columbia basin lamprey population. In fact, lamprey numbers have declined steadily since at least the 1960s.  According to a 2012 U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fact sheet [PDF], likely threats to lampreys include habitat loss associated with passage barriers, dredging, and stream and floodplain degradation; river flow alterations; predation by non-native species; poor water quality; changing ocean conditions; and exposure to toxic substances.

Willamette River lamprey may be particularly vulnerable when it comes to toxic substances. Paddle the river as it flows north from the falls and you will eventually pass by downtown Portland. It is about here that you enter the Portland Harbor Superfund site, an 11-mile stretch of river with numerous patches of contaminated sediments from more than 100 years of industrial and urban uses. Juvenile lampreys, called ammocoetes, must pass through this portion of river on their seaward migration, just as adult lampreys do as they return upriver to spawn. But it is the ammocoetes that are most likely to be at risk from pollutants buried in the riverbed.

Pacific lamprey

Pacific lamprey. (Photo courtesy of Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife)

Lampreys are an anadromous species, which means they spawn in freshwater, spend their adulthood in the ocean, and return to freshwater to reproduce. In this respect they are similar to salmon, but lamprey life cycles are more complex. After hatching from their eggs, ammocoetes drift downstream to areas with slow-moving water and silty, sandy sediments. Here they burrow into the sediments and filter-feed for up to seven years before emerging to continue their journey to the sea. It is during this time that they may be particularly vulnerable as they eat contaminated foods and are directly exposed to pollutants for long periods.

Ammocoetes are known to use the stretch of the Willamette River encompassed by the Superfund site, and lamprey tissue samples collected from within the site show higher levels of contaminants than those collected from cleaner sediments upstream of Portland Harbor. It is not clear how ammocoetes in Portland Harbor are affected by contamination, but at least one analysis suggests exposure to contaminated sediment from Portland Harbor may adversely affect their behavior.

So what is being done? The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has been working with its partners and a group of companies called the Lower Willamette Group to assess risks to human health and the environment and to determine how best to clean up the river. EPA’s efforts are ultimately aimed at removing the threats posed by contaminated sediments.

NOAA is one of eight members on a trustee council that is working to understand how contaminants may have impacted natural resources. The council is also planning habitat restoration projects to make up for those impacts.  (The other members of the council include five tribes–Grand Ronde, Siletz, Umatilla, Warm Springs, and Nez Perce–and the state and federal fish and wildlife agencies.)

In addition to the lamprey, the council is planning restoration projects to benefit other types of fish and wildlife, like osprey, bald eagles, mink, and salmon. The council is focusing on these species because evidence suggests they may have been most impacted by contaminants and because they represent species guilds that are important in the lower Willamette River and similar Pacific Northwest ecosystems.

Tribal member displays cooler with harvest of lamprey.

Michael Wilson, Confederated Tribes of Grand Ronde Tribal member and the Tribe’s Natural Resources Department manager, shows the lamprey that were harvested by NRD staff at Willamette Falls on Friday, July 29, 2011. (Photo courtesy of Rebecca McCoun.)

This summer, the council wants to hear what the public thinks about restoration in Portland Harbor. A plan that lays out restoration options to benefit lampreys and other species that use the lower Willamette River, Multnomah Channel, and parts of the Columbia River close to the Superfund site has just been released. The council wants to hear from tribal members; people who fish on the river; folks who like to bike, jog, or picnic along the river; and others who care about the health of fish, wildlife and other natural resources in the Superfund site.

The plan includes a list of 44 potential restoration projects, including activities like removing culverts to improve access to upstream habitats, creating off-channel areas with clean water and sediment where fish can rest during migration, and “daylighting” cold, clean streams that currently run through pipes in the heavily built-up and industrial section of the river. For the next couple of months, the council is hosting meetings, presenting at neighborhood associations, and attending community events around Portland to let people know about their work and gather comments on the plan.

To see a copy of the draft plan and a schedule of meetings and comment deadlines, visit http://www.fws.gov/oregonfwo/Contaminants/PortlandHarbor. And for a little lamprey fun, take a look at the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s lamprey activity book [PDF].

Robert NeelyRobert Neely is an environmental scientist with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Office of Response and Restoration.  He has experience in ocean and coastal management, brownfields revitalization, Ecological Risk Assessment, and Natural Resource Damage Assessment. He started with NOAA in 1998 and has worked for the agency in Charleston, S.C.; Washington, D.C.; New Bedford, Mass.; and Seattle, Wash., where he lives with his wife and daughter. He’s been working with his co-trustees at Portland Harbor since 2005.

Lauren SenkyrLauren Senkyr is a Habitat Restoration Specialist with NOAA’s Restoration Center.  Based out of Portland, Ore., she works on restoration planning and community outreach for the Portland Harbor Superfund site as well as other habitat restoration efforts throughout the state of Oregon.


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What to Do If You Find Marine Debris from the Japan Tsunami

Midway Atoll beach with fishing float.

During a recent trip to Midway Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, NOAA Marine Debris Program staff, in partnership with the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument, examined the beaches for significant or unusual marine debris items, which may be related to the Japan tsunami. None were found. (NOAA Marine Debris Program/Carey Morishige)

Ever since the first few items—an unmanned fishing boat, a childhood soccer ball—from the 2011 Japan earthquake and tsunami began turning up in North America, people have been asking what they should do if they find something themselves.

If you see small, disposable debris, such as bottles, aluminum, or Styrofoam, remove it from the beach and recycle or dispose of it properly.

If you suspect that the marine debris you found may be from the Japan tsunami (which is very difficult to tell), let us know! Email DisasterDebris@noaa.gov to report it to the NOAA Marine Debris Program, with as much information as possible.

You can view a NOAA map [PDF] (generated using our nifty ERMA® tool) of all of the debris possibly related to the tsunami reported to NOAA since December 2011. This includes both potential and confirmed tsunami marine debris sightings, and we provide close-up maps [PDF] for each of the Pacific coast states as well. However, out of hundreds of sightings, only 10 have confirmed connections to the Japan tsunami.

Some pieces of marine debris may be too big (for example, a 66 foot long concrete dock) or too hazardous to handle. In this case, leave the debris alone (it could be a safety risk) and report it to the local authorities, depending on where you live.

If you are in Oregon, you can find dozens of designated disposal stations along Oregon beaches where you can drop off bags of tsunami debris. And, the state of Oregon says, “If you see debris larger than what you can put in a bag—tires, refrigerators, and so on—don’t bring it to the disposal station. Report its location by calling 211 (1-800-SAFENET).”

For Washington residents, you can call 1-855-WACOAST (or 1-855-922-6278) to report oil, hazardous items, floating debris items that might pose a boating or navigation hazard to the National Response Center and Washington Department of Ecology. They will also give instructions for reporting debris that is not large or hazardous.

If an item you find appears to have sentimental value to its previous owner, we ask that you move the item to a safe place and email us details at DisasterDebris@noaa.gov. The NOAA Marine Debris Program website has a full set of guidelines for how to handle different types of debris. And the Oregon Parks and Recreation Department has a similar handy pocket guide [PDF] for when you may be combing the beach for debris.

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