What is Marine Debris? Diving Deeper(audio podcast)
During the 2005 hurricane season, Hurricanes Katrina and Rita inflicted severe damage on the Gulf of Mexico coastal region and deposited huge amounts of debris over large areas of the Gulf coast. This submerged marine debris poses a persistent hazard to vessel traffic and can adversely affect commercially viable fishing grounds.
Warning sign posted in Gulfport, Mississippi, after Hurricane Katrina.
In an effort to restore fishing grounds and improve navigational safety, Congress directed NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey and the Office of Response and Restoration’s Marine Debris Program to survey and map the impacted Gulf coast areas. Survey work began in September 2006 in Alabama, Mississippi, and Eastern Louisiana, and by the end of the first phase in September 2007, over 5,000 submerged potential debris items were identified, mapped, and posted on the project Web site to advise boaters and assist with marine debris removal efforts.
As of August 29, 2009 – the fourth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina – the project team surveyed over 1,550 square nautical miles from Mobile Bay, Alabama, to the Louisiana/Texas border, and located more than 7,000 debris items in offshore fishing and shrimping grounds impacted by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The information collected throughout the project was used by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), in coordination with the Gulf states, to assess the removal of any items determined to be hazards to navigation. The project team, consisting of scientists from the U.S. Coast Guard (USCG), FEMA, and NOAA, along with state agencies and Louisiana parishes, is conducting a large-scale survey and removal effort of Katrina and Rita-related debris items within inshore waterways. After environmental review and consultation and evaluation by federal and state agencies, debris removal is conducted using best practices to minimize harm to habitat.
Debris collected and retrieved from the waters of the Gulf of Mexico after Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.
The Gulf of Mexico Marine Debris Project recently received an Environmental Protection Agency "Gulf Guardian" award for its work and partnerships in the region. This project is conducting a final workshop on September 2, 2009, to bring together state-level leadership from the three states impacted by Hurricane Katrina – Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana – along with USCG and FEMA.