What is Marine Debris?


Source Pew Foundation/ Jim Toomy

Ocean conservation is essential but sometimes difficult to understand. Pew joined forces with cartoonist Jim Toomey, the artist behind “Sherman’s Lagoon,” on 10 animated videos that explain the complicated concepts that guide efforts to protect our oceans.

Visual Glossary of Ocean Terminology – Cartoon crash course

#5  What is Marine Debris?

Marine debris is all the manmade stuff that ends up in the oceans—from soda cans and plastic bottles to sunken ships. There’s marine debris in every ocean on Earth, and all that junk can kill and injure sea life, impede navigation, leach chemicals, and even end up in our food.

Nationally syndicated cartoonist Jim Toomey, creator of Sherman’s Lagoon, has joined forces with The Pew Charitable Trusts to illustrate “marine debris” and other terms associated with our oceans.


You know that feeling of having too much stuff – gadgets, loose socks, maybe a couple of abandoned fishing vessels? Now imagine that multiplied by, oh, one trillion, and you start to understand how the ocean must feel about marine debris.

Marine debris is all the manmade stuff that ends up in the ocean, from soda cans, plastic bottles and the sun hat you lost last summer–to abandoned fishing gear, entire vessels that are sunken or marooned. Whether it got there on purpose or by accident, and even if that hat happens to fit a certain octopus just perfectly, it still qualifies as marine debris.

Scientists say there are 5 and a quarter trillion pieces of plastic alone in the ocean, and that’s only part of the marine debris problem. All that junk is killing and injuring sea life, impeding navigation, leaching chemicals, and even ending up in our food.

Plastics, for example, break down into tiny particles that resemble fish eggs. Fish consume those particles, we eat the fish and, well, you know.

Marine debris is present in every ocean, carried far and wide by currents and wind.

People – and probably some fish – are working on ways to clean all this stuff up but, as yet, nobody has found a solution… or your hat, for that matter.


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February 5, 2017 |

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