Marine Explorer

Coastal

Welcome to the coastal zone—where the ocean meets the land. From rocky shorelines to sandy beaches, the coastal zone hosts an abundance of life, determined by changing tides, pounding waves, hungry predators, and other factors. The U.S. has about 95,000 miles of beaches and coastlines, and even if you don't live near one, your actions can have an impact. Explore dynamic coastal ecosystems and investigate ways that you and your community can make a difference in sustaining them for future generations.

Endangered Sea Turtles

sea turtle

Learn how governments, organizations, and communities across the globe are working together to protect Sea Turtles.

Explore More

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

piece of garbage on a finger

Learn about the Great Pacific garbage patch, located in the North Pacific Ocean.

Explore More

Marine Debris Impacts

woman with images of garbage

While people have a choice about swimming in an ocean, marine animals don't.

Explore More

Saving Sea Turtles

sea turtle

How do you stop turtles from getting caught in fishing nets?

Explore More

The Endangered Species Act

sea turtle

Today, the Endangered Species list protects over 2,000 species—over a hundred of which are marine.

Explore More

What Can We Do to Prevent Marine Debris?

woman throwing out plastic bottle

Unless people change the way they consume and dispose of products, the marine debris problem will continue to get worse.

Explore More

What Is Marine Debris?

cartoon image of diver underwater with garbage around her

Marine debris is anything in the ocean that's solid, made by humans, and not supposed to be there.

Explore More

Where Does Marine Debris Come From?

graphic of garbage in a can and bags

There are many ways that trash makes its way into the ocean and becomes marine debris.

Explore More

Why Is Plastic Marine Debris So Common?

graphic of garbage inside a fish

Millions of tons of plastic trash — enough to cover every foot of coastline in the world — end up in the ocean every year.

Explore More

Endangered Sea Turtles

Sea turtles have been on Earth for more than 100 million years, since the time of dinosaurs. Sea turtles help balance food webs and keep nutrients cycling in ocean ecosystems. However, sea turtles are in danger, and the greatest threats come from human activity. Turtles get caught in fishing nets or entangled in marine debris. They are being hunted, their habitats are being destroyed, and they are even colliding with boats. In this video, learn how governments, conservation organizations, and communities across the globe are working together to protect these key marine reptiles.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Throughout the ocean, there are many areas where marine debris has gathered in "patches." These huge patches are filled with tiny bits of plastics called "microplastics." Cleaning up the patches would be no easy task. The ultimate solution is prevention—stopping marine debris at the source. Watch to learn about one of these patches, the Great Pacific garbage patch, located in the North Pacific Ocean.

Marine Debris Impacts

While people have a choice about swimming in an ocean, marine animals don't. When an area of the ocean acquires a lot of trash, animals in that habitat can become injured or die. Marine debris can also harm habitats, people, and even the economy.

Saving Sea Turtles

How do you stop turtles from getting caught in fishing nets? The solution is to design a fishing net that allows sea turtles that have been caught accidentally to escape. These turtle excluder devices, or TEDs, consist of a grid of bars in the net that direct turtles toward an opening in the net. TEDs were developed in the 1980s and 1990s and are now required by federal regulations for fishing. Each year, new and improved designs are tested, reducing turtle deaths due to shrimp nets by almost 100 percent. That's really good news for sea turtles!

The Endangered Species Act

Many marine species are in danger of becoming extinct, meaning they are disappearing from the ocean. The Endangered Species Act, passed by Congress in 1973, protects animals and plants that are in danger of becoming extinct. This conservation law is one of the most important tools for keeping species from disappearing in the United States. Today, the Endangered Species list protects over 2,000 species—over a hundred of which are marine.

What Can We Do to Prevent Marine Debris?

Unless people change the way they consume and dispose of products, the marine debris problem will continue to get worse. Plastic is one of the main types of ocean trash and hurts the environment, the economy, and health. For example, plastic bags can sink to the seafloor and suffocate coral reefs, a littered beach can mean lost tourism dollars, and people can get sick by eating fish contaminated with plastic particles. By working together, people can design solutions that prevent trash from entering the ocean in the first place. Cities, businesses, communities, homes, schools all over the world—and you—can all contribute to the ultimate solution: prevention.

What Is Marine Debris?

Marine debris is anything in the ocean that's solid, made by humans, and not supposed to be there. From specks of plastic to large, abandoned boats, anything can become marine debris. Plastics are the most common types of marine debris, but rubber, cloth, glass, metal, and paper litter make up ocean trash, too. Marine debris is one of the biggest pollution problems threatening oceans and waterways today.

Where Does Marine Debris Come From?

There are many ways that trash makes its way into the ocean and becomes marine debris. Whether it's from the beach, or from cities many miles from the ocean, human activity is the source of ocean trash. But humans also have the power to prevent it.

Why Is Plastic Marine Debris So Common?

Plastic, plastic, everywhere! Millions of tons of plastic trash — enough to cover every foot of coastline in the world — end up in the ocean every year. The most common types of marine debris include food wrappers, plastic drink bottles, plastic bottle caps, and plastic straws and drink stirrers. When people litter or don't recycle, these items wind up in the ocean. The three Rs can help—for the health of the ocean and our own health—reduce, reuse, recycle!