What is a catcher beach?

A catcher beach refers to any place where marine debris tends to pile up or aggregate.

A classic example of a catcher beach along the shores of Hawaii.

This map shows debris concentrations from an aerial survey done in Alaska in 2012. The map points to two known catcher areas, along Kruzof Island and Gore Point.

Not to be confused with a dumping ground or heavily trashed public beach, a catcher beach typically receives its accumulations of debris due to its shape and location in combination with high-energy waves, storms, or winds. Awareness and common knowledge of these types of areas vary significantly by state, although many states have a good understanding of where catcher beaches are located. In many cases, catcher beaches are found in remote areas that are difficult to access and can be challenging in terms of debris cleanup and removal.

A specific example of a catcher beach can be found along the shores of Gore Point, Alaska. The geography of this location makes it a very high-density catcher beach, as it sticks out like a hook into the Gulf of Alaska current. Scientists and community groups have been monitoring and cleaning this catcher beach for over nine years because a lot of debris ends up there each year. Most notably in 2007-2008, a cleanup effort in Gore Point removed more than 20 tons of debris from less than a mile of shoreline! The debris included piles of logs reaching 10-15 feet high—evidence of the force of the winter storms that bring debris ashore in that part of Alaska.

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Our oceans are filled with items that do not belong there. Huge amounts of consumer plastics, metals, rubber, paper, textiles, derelict fishing gear, vessels, and other lost or discarded items enter the marine environment every day, making marine debris one of the most widespread pollution problems facing the world's ocean and waterways.

Last updated: 06/25/18
Author: NOAA
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