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Marine Debris & Litter

Be the Solution to Litter Pollution!

The City of Monterey prides itself on its beauty. Visitors from all over the world continue to visit our City because of its historic amenities and clean appearance and to visit attractions such as the Monterey Bay Aquarium. When citizens and visitors drive State Highways 1 and 68 to reach our city, they are blinded by the amount of litter in view. The litter on these highways also frequently reaches our storm drains and eventually finds its way to the Bay. When visitors see our beaches we do not want them focusing on the litter but the incredible window to our beautiful bay.
Marine Debris is EVERYONE'S problem
Here are a few tips about what you can to do prevent and protect our local (and global) environment.

Tip 1: Secure loads in your vehicles. If you are transporting loose material in a truck or trailer, ensure that it is secured properly, especially the back end.

Tip 2: Report Litter. If you see vehicles or commercial vehicles (including Garbage trucks) with litter coming out of their vehicles, get the license plate, location, time and date and call the company.

Tip 3: Stop Litter before it starts. The most effective way to keep litter off the beaches and roadways is to not generate it in the first place. Say no to plastic bags and polystyrene. When at the beach, use the Pack-it-in, Pack-it-out rule and take all your waste with you.

Examples of common runoff debris
Marine debris is only a blight in the marine environmnent, it is harmful to the entire ecosystem.

Most Common Types of Marine Debris

  • Plastics - As society has developed new uses for plastics, the variety and quantity of plastic items found in the marine environment has increased dramatically. These products range from common domestic material (bags, cups, bottles, balloons) to industrial products (strapping bands, plastic sheeting, hard hats, resin pellets) to lost or discarded fishing gear (nets, buoys, traps, lines).
  • Glass, Metal, Styrofoam, and Rubber - These materials are similar to plastic in that they are used for a wide range of products. While they can be worn away - broken down into smaller and smaller fragments, they generally do not biodegrade entirely. As these materials are used commonly in our society, their occurrence as marine debris is overwhelming.
  • Derelict Fishing Gear - Derelict fishing gear (DFG) refers to nets, lines, crab/shrimp pots, and other recreational or commercial fishing equipment that has been lost, abandoned, or discarded in the marine environment. Modern gear is generally made of synthetic materials and metal, and lost gear can persist for a very long time.
Sources of Marine Debris

  1. Ocean-based Sources - Materials can be dumped, swept, or blown off vessels and stationary platforms at sea. Among the ocean-based sources of marine debris are:
  2. Land-based Sources - Debris generated on land can be blown, swept, or washed out to sea. Among the sources of the debris are littering, dumping in rivers and streams, and industrial losses such as spillage of plastic resin pellets during production, transportation, and processing.
    1. Littering, Dumping, and Poor Waste Management Practices - Intentional or unintentional disposal of domestic or industrial wastes on land or in rivers or streams can contribute to the marine debris problem if a subsequent action carries the debris to the ocean.
    2. Storm Water Discharges - Storm water that flows along streets or along the ground as a result of rain or snow can carry street litter into storm drains. Storm drains carry this water and debris to a nearby river, stream, canal, or even directly to the ocean. Marine debris from storm water runoff includes street litter (e.g., cigarette butts and filters), medical items (e.g., syringes), food packaging, beverage containers, and other material that might have washed down a storm drain.
    3. Extreme Natural Events - Hurricanes, tornadoes, tsunamis, floods and mudslides have devastating effects on human life and property. The high winds, heavy rains, flooding, and tidal surges associated with extreme events are capable of carrying objects as light as a cigarette butt or as heavy as the roof of a two-story home far out to sea. During storms or other periods of strong winds or high waves, almost any kind of trash (including glass, metal, wood, and medical waste) can be deposited into the ocean.
Have you heard about the big soupy mess of plastics that is floating somewhere in the Pacific Ocean? No, it's not a joke. It's not a rumor.
Part of the problem is the throwaway culture of plastics in our everyday lives, especially with products like single-use plastic bags.

Marine DebrisThousands of animals die every year from ingestion or strangulation by plastic, many on Monterey beaches. Not only that, but studies have shown that this plastic soup acts as a sponge for Persistent Organic Pollutants or POPs which include heavy metals and dangerous chemicals. In turn, these POPs are entering our bodies through the fish we eat!

Container ships frequently lose containers and cargo overboard in the middle of the ocean contributing to this problem. As land mammals, we personally contribute to this problem by recycling less than 5% of the plastic products we consume and littering our watersheds. Only 20% of marine debris comes from lost fishing gear and shipping sources – 80% originates in run-off from coastal watersheds.

Living around the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary has it's benefits, but also its responsibilities. Great conservation efforts happen locally around the Monterey Bay through a variety of organizations.

Most importantly, you can protect the environment while you play. Make sure that when you are out enjoying all that our area has to offer, that you follow the "pack it in-pack it out" policy. In other words, if you bring it with you on your day of play, make sure you take every piece back with you that you did not consume.

Want To Know More?

Here are a list of links you can check out for more information about marine debris, plastics in the ocean as well as organizations that are committed to helping with this problem.

The choices people make about wastes have an impact on the ocean and on the streams and rivers that flow into the ocean.

Here are a few things that you can do:

  • Conserve water. The more water you use the more water you send down the drain to be processed at sewage treatment facilities. This excess water can lead to sewer overflows and raw sewage discharges into streams, rivers and beach areas.
  • Use designated restrooms at beaches. This can help to decrease the amount of human waste that is washed into the ocean. Keep diapered children out of the water and dispose of diapers properly.
  • Properly dispose of pet waste. Bring bags to collect pet waste and throw it away in a trashcan. This helps decrease the amount of waste that is washed into streams, rivers and beaches when it rains.
  • Dispose of trash properly. Place all waste in a trashcan, not on the beach or in the water.
  • Use natural products in your yard. Whenever possible, minimize or eliminate the use of chemical herbicides and pesticides because they pollute the water.
  • Maintain your septic system, including the drain field. Follow manufacturer instructions regarding pumping and maintenance service. This prevents the discharge of raw sewage into storm drains, rivers, streams, and the ocean following heavy rainfall.
  • Properly dispose of boating waste. Empty portable toilet and sewage holding tanks into approved on-shore facilities. Maintain engines to minimize discharges of oil and gasoline.
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