Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan Newsletter

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Marine debris on the beach. (Photo: Oregon SOLVE)

June 2018 Update #3

Dear colleague,

The Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan was completed in April 2017, and has since seen much progress. Highlighted below are recent marine debris accomplishments in Oregon, as well as a brief summary of the Action Plan status update, and other issues of interest. Many thanks to everyone who contributed to this update!

Nir Barnea
Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator 
NOAA Marine Debris Program 

Volunteers Brave the Weather at the Annual Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup

Volunteer at SOLVE beach cleanup. (Photo: Heidi Heaphy Photography)

Submitted by: Joy Hawkins, Oregon SOLVE

Volunteers continue to be a force in the fight against litter and marine debris. On March 24, over 3,100 Oregonians traveled from across the state to help at the SOLVE Spring Oregon Beach Cleanup. Despite the cold and rain, more than 16,000 pounds of debris was removed from 45 beach locations. This event was truly a coast-wide effort, made possible through the hard work and dedication of dozens of beach captains and partners including Oregon State Parks, Surfrider, Washed Ashore, local haulers, coastal cities, new Adopt-a-Beach groups, and many more. 

In addition to the annual beach cleanup, local project leaders and volunteers continue to focus on upstream litter cleanups. Since January, an estimated 68,000 pounds of debris have been removed from streams, rivers, parks, and neighborhoods across Oregon. Way to go volunteers! 

Protecting State-Owned Waterways

The River Queen
The River Queen, Columbia River. (Photo: Gary Cooper)

Submitted by: Christopher Castelli, Oregon Department of State Lands 

In 2017, the Department of State Lands began removing the River Queen and other vessels from a site on the Columbia River near Goble. The cleanup should be complete by October 2018. Approximately 100 tons of contaminated debris will be removed, at a cost of nearly $13 million dollars.

The agency is working on a legislative concept to address major cleanups on waterways, while reducing the financial burden to the Common School Fund. One option is to acquire an umbrella insurance policy and have lessees pay a pro-rated share of the premium costs.

The agency also launched a grant program under the Submerged Lands Enhancement Fund in 2017. The priorities for 2018 grants include projects that involve orphan/derelict piling and structure removal, and recreation access. Up to five grants will be awarded for a total not to exceed $100,000.

Oregon Coast Aquarium is Looking In-house to “Walk the Talk”

OR Coast Aquarium
Oregon Coast Aquarium water bottle refill station. (Photo: Oregon Coast Aquarium)

Submitted by: Kerry Carlin Morgan, Oregon Coast Aquarium 

Oregon Coast Aquarium’s green team is leading the charge to educate our staff and volunteers about plastic, and reduce the amount of plastic in our facility. Internal education includes monthly challenges to encourage staff to become more aware of plastic in their lives and find alternatives. So far we have tackled plastic bags, straws, water bottles, produce containers and packaging. 

On the guest side, we installed water bottle refill stations and our gift shop is selling reusable bottles. We replaced single use plastic water bottles with canned water – for those who forgot their reusable bottle! Straws are now by request only – moving toward paper straws soon.

The Aquarium has brought in a new partner – the Center for Geography Education in Oregon to develop a 2019 summer institute on plastic pollution. We are in the planning stages for this exciting new teacher professional development opportunity. 

COASST Citizen Science Efforts in Oregon

COASST UW undergraduate intern Abby Bratt
COASST UW undergraduate intern Abby Bratt works on analyses of seasonality of marine debris deposition. (Photo: COASST)

Submitted by: Hillary Burgess, University of Washington 

There are currently 15 actively monitored beaches in Oregon. A map of active and available monitoring sites can be found here. Over the next six months, COASST plans to host trainings for new participants in central and northern Oregon.

COASST is just beginning work on preliminary analyses of the burgeoning dataset. Anyone interested in updates can request to subscribe to our newsletter and blog by emailing coasst@uw.edu.

CoastWatch Spring 2018 Update

Coast Watch
Fawn Custer (far right) conducting a marine debris monitoring survey training. (Photo: Dennis White)

Submitted by:Phillip Johnson, Oregon Shores 

During the past six months, CoastWatch has continued to conduct a monthly marine debris survey, using the NOAA protocol, at 10 sites. During this period, CoastWatch Volunteer Coordinator Fawn Custer has conducted 20 introductions/trainings for survey volunteers or prospective volunteers, involving 231 participants. She has also included information about the marine debris survey in the context of CoastWatch’s larger citizen science effort (a total of seven projects) at 13 other events, reaching an estimated 1,155 people, including those interacted with through tabling. An estimated 36 volunteers have actively participated at one of the sites during this span.

Fawn has also made presentations to K-12 class audiences, including most recently schools in Toledo, Waldport, and Lincoln City, and continues to seek to involve more schools in marine debris monitoring and cleanup. For more information about Oregon Shores and its activities, see https://oregonshores.org/.

Six Month Report from OSG/HMSC Marine Education (Nov 2017 – Apr 2018)

Teachers discover microplastics in face wash. (Photo: OSG)

Submitted by: Cait Goodwin, Oregon Sea Grant - HMSC Marine Education 

In January 2018, Oregon Sea Grant (OSG) ran two full-day marine debris workshops for educators that reached 37 educators. Many of these teachers are implementing marine debris units with their students this spring. The teachers and students are invited to present their projects at a Student Watershed Symposium at Hatfield Marine Science Center (HMSC) on May 22nd.

OSG shared the STEAMSS marine debris curriculum developed in Oregon at the Sixth International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, CA on March 12th.

OSG’s interactive exhibit at the annual Marine Science Day event at Hatfield Marine Science Center on April 14th focused on marine debris. Visitors sorted Beach Box contents, and pledged to engage in personal behaviors that would reduce marine debris. This year’s event reached an estimate 1,700 visitors.

Surfrider Oregon Places Nearly 40 New Cigarette Butt Canisters

Surfrider Canisters
Hold on to Your Butt canister near a beach in Oregon. (Photo: Mike Harrington)

Submitted by: Bri Goodwin, Surfrider Oregon 

Surfrider's anti-cigarette litter program, called Hold on to Your Butt, is increasing in popularity. Through the program, Chapters recruit businesses to sponsor a cigarette butt canister. Sponsorship includes paying the cost of the canister, emptying it on a regular basis, and reporting on the amount of cigarette butts. The Portland Chapter has been participating in the program for nearly three years and has placed more than 30 canisters. The Newport Chapter, who launched the program this year, just placed their first canister.

In addition to placing canisters in their communities, these programs help fund cigarette butt canisters in Oregon State Parks. From 2016-2017, 19 canisters were placed in parks, keeping thousands of cigarette butts from making their way to the beach. This year, the Newport and Portland Chapters assisted State Parks in ordering 27 new canisters, more than doubling the amount of cigarette butt canisters in State Parks.

Surfrider Oregon Launches the Beach Ambassador Program

Beach Ambassadors
Beach cleanup on the Oregon coast. (Photo: Surfrider Oregon)

Submitted by: Bri Goodwin, Surfrider Oregon 

Surfrider Oregon, with support from the National Marine Sanctuaries Foundation and the NOAA Marine Debris Program, has launched the Oregon Beach Ambassador program to increase the amount of data collected during marine debris cleanup in Oregon. A pilot project of the program is on-going in Newport and Florence.

Beach Ambassadors clean any beach of their choice at least monthly while recording each piece of marine debris in the NOAA Marine Debris Tracker App. In return, Ambassadors get some sampling gear and a beach cleanup kit.

The program appeals to people who regularly clean their beach, but want their cleanups to be more impactful. One Ambassador in Newport who cleaned the beach weekly even before the program launched said the program makes her “feel like I’m actually making a difference.”

The pilot phase ends on June 30, but we are looking for funding to continue this program and expand it coast wide.

Surfrider Leading the Movement Against Single Use Plastic Straws in Oregon

Ditch the Straw
DitchTheStraw participants in Portland. (Photo: Surfrider Oregon)

Submitted by: Bri Goodwin, Surfrider Oregon

The Portland Chapter launched DitchTheStrawPDX in August 2017 and the Newport Chapter launched Ditch the Straw Lincoln County in January 2018. Both Chapters are taking a business-first approach by reaching out individually to businesses and supporting their switch to a straws-upon-request policy. Portland’s campaign requires businesses to only offer paper or reusable straws while Newport’s program encourages, but does not require, the use of alternatives.

Between the two Chapters, more than 60 businesses (and counting) have moved to a straws-upon-request only policy. Additionally, most of those businesses have also switched to a more sustainable reusable or paper straw. Read more about these programs and why we're focusing on straws.

Surfrider Portland Recognized for Keeping it Clean Upstream

MVP Surfrider
Portland’s Green Street cleanup in action. (Photo: Surfrider Oregon)

Submitted by: Bri Goodwin, Surfrider Oregon

The Portland Chapter of Surfrider Foundation was recognized by the City of Portland's Green Streets Program as the "Most Valuable Partner" for removing 616 gallons of trash with the Green Streets cleanups in 2017. Surfrider Portland has been doing Green Streets clean ups for more than 5 years, collecting trash inland before it can be carried by wind or water to our beaches and ocean.

The Portland Chapter's Green Streets program also recruits business partners to participate. In many cases, a business will host the volunteers for orientation and send employees out to help. When our hardworking volunteers return to the business, they are often rewarded with a tasty beverage courtesy of the hosting establishment. It's a win-win – promoting business stewardship of their communities and keeping it clean upstream!

Marine Debris Updates and Issues of Interest

Submitted by: Nir Barnea, NOAA Marine Debris Program


The Sixth International Marine Debris Conference in San Diego, California, was a smashing success. Over 700 participants from 54 countries attended the conference, and all contributed by presenting their work through posters and talks, leading discussions at networking events, or simply sharing their experience and lessons learned. The proceedings are now available, and includes highlights of the activities and summaries of the technical sessions. A Book of Abstracts is available as well, and includes both the oral and poster abstracts. 

The Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan Status Update

Only a year since its inception, the Oregon Marine Debris Action Plan and actions within it have made remarkable progress, as can be seen by the recent status update. Of the 71 current and future actions, we received updates on 58 actions, of which 45 are in progress, 7 were completed, and 6 are pending. The completion of the first 2-year operating cycle is a year away, at which point the partners will convene in a workshop to review progress, evaluate the Plan, and consider future actions.

NOAA Marine Debris Program Funding Opportunities

Federal Funding Opportunities through the NOAA Marine Debris Program are posted on the Program’s website in the late summer, early fall. If you are interested in submitting a proposal, please check the website for updates.