Marine Debris in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary
Project Status: This project began in June 2007 and was completed in June 2010
We collaborated with Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary managers and NOAA’s Marine Debris Program personnel to determine where marine debris accumulates in the sanctuary and what factors lead to the buildup. By knowing where debris is most likely to occur, the staff of the sanctuary can more efficiently clean up the material. This project resulted in the implementation of a long-term marine debris monitoring project within the sanctuary to determine patterns of accumulation over time.
Why We Care
Marine debris has been documented as a growing problem affecting many areas in US coastal waters. However, off the U.S. southeast Atlantic coast, debris levels were unknown despite the area’s potential vulnerability from the level of human activity and the particular seafloor characteristics. The U.S. South Atlantic Bight region has a broad, sandy continental shelf interspersed with patchy hard bottom or limestone ledges that are home to a diversity of reef fish and bottom-dwelling invertebrates, such as sponges, corals, and tunicates. Off the Georgia coast, NOAA’s Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS) contains a range of seafloor characteristics that are representative of the entire bight, including a high relief and live habitats densely colonized by invertebrates. The seafloor thus supports high fish densities that in turn attract increasing numbers of recreational fishers and divers, making the region susceptible to marine debris deposition.
What We Did
We conducted marine debris surveys as part of a recent biological assessment of GRNMS (see 2007 report below).
What We Found
We determined that debris:
Was significantly more common on the densely colonized ledge sites than on sand or sparsely colonized live bottom.
Correlated with the level of boating activity and physical characteristics, such as ledge height.
We used these results to construct spatial predictive models to map debris density and worked with the sanctuary personnel to design and establish a long-term monitoring program to quantify accumulation rates and impacts of marine debris at the densely colonized ledge habitat.
Our spatial predictive maps helped managers identify and clean up debris-prone areas and to determine how frequently clean ups should occur. The GRNMS managers have also expanded outreach programs to educate the public and sanctuary users about the importance of reducing the amount of marine debris reaching these sensitive ocean habitats.
The GRNMS staff and volunteers continue to a perform the marine debris survey each year to track accumulation rates. This information is being used to further refine models and cleanup timelines.
Regions of Study: Atlantic Ocean, Georgia
Primary Contacts: Laurie Bauer, John Christensen
Science for Coastal Ecosystem Management
Related NCCOS Center: CCMA
Data Collections and Related Websites
- Bauer, L.J., M.S. Kendall, and G. McFall. 2010. Assessment and monitoring of marine debris in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Prepared by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Biogeography Branch and Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary (GRNMS). Silver Spring, MD. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 113. 40 pp.
- Kendall, M.S., L.J. Bauer and C.F.G. Jeffrey. 2009. Influence of hard bottom morphology on fish assemblages of the continental shelf off Georgia, southeastern USA. Bulletin of Marine Science 84:265-286. Contact email@example.com for a copy of the article.
- Kendall, M.S., L.J. Bauer and C.F.G. Jeffrey. 2008. Influence of Benthic Features and Fishing Pressure on Size and Distribution of Three Exploited Reef Fishes from the Southeastern United States. Transactions of the American Fisheries Society 137:1134-1146. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the article.
- Bauer, L.J., M.S. Kendall, and C.F.G. Jeffrey. 2008. Incidence of marine debris and its relationships with benthic features in Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary, Southeast USA. Marine Pollution Bulletin. 56:402-413. Contact email@example.com for a copy of the article.
- Kendall, M.S., L.J. Bauer and C.F.G. Jeffrey. 2007. Characterization of the Benthos, Marine Debris and Bottom Fish at Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. Prepared by National Centers for Coastal Ocean Science (NCCOS) Biogeography Team in cooperation with the National Marine Sanctuary Program. Silver Spring, MD. NOAA Technical Memorandum NOS NCCOS 50. 82 pp. + Appendices.
- Kendall, M.S., O.P. Jensen, C. Alexander, D. Field, G. McFall, R. Bohne, and M.E. Monaco. 2005. Benthic mapping using sonar, video transect, and an innovative approach to accuracy assessment: a characterization of bottom creatures in the Georgia Bight. Journal of Coastal Research 21: 1154-1165. Contact firstname.lastname@example.org for a copy of the article.
- Kendall, M. S., O.P. Jensen, C. Alexander, D. Field, G. McFall, R. Bohne, and M. E. Monaco. 2003. Benthic Habitats of Gray’s Reef National Marine Sanctuary. NOAA/NOS/NCCOS/CCMA Biogeography Team Technical Report, pp 1-16.
News and Feature Stories