Marine debris are any man made, solid material, generally trash, that has entered a water system. Marine debris are not just a coastal problem they affect every major water system in the world. Marine debris are more than an eyesore, they are one of the world’s most pervasive pollution problems. Floating trash can be harmful to the health and safety of everyone.
Common materials that become marine debris:
- food packaging and beverage containers,
- household trash,
- construction materials,
- plastic barrels
- cigarette butts,
- fishing lines,
- leftover bait,
- fish parts,
- feminine products and medical waste
How does it get there?
Recreational activities provide for the majority of marine debris. Often times marine debris enter the waterway unintentionally, when an object is properly disposed of but the wind or rain carries it out again. However every year thousands of boaters, fisherman and vacationers carelessly leave behind materials that become marine debris.
How do marine debris affect our waterways?
Marine debris are affecting our East Fork Little Miami Watershed in many ways. Animals, birds, fish and reptiles can be wounded, strangled, or unable to swim if they consume or become entangled in marine debris. Marine debris clog and pollute natural habitats which reduces native species populations.
A major safety concern to boaters is that materials floating in the water like netting, plastics, ropes, cables can get tangled in boat propellers and clog intakes.
What can I do to prevent marine debris from entering the East Fork Watershed?
- Practice “Pack it in, pack it out” Everything that is not eaten should be returned to shore for disposal.
- Secure all trash on board with a sealable container and dispose of it on shore.
- When trash falls overboard, AWAYS go back and get it.
- When fueling, don’t top tanks and always mop up fuel spills.
- Use biodegradable products when possible.
- ALWAYS pump out on shore if you have a holding tank. NEVER dump human waste into waterways.
- Recycle used motor oil and filers. Your local gas station should have facilities for recycling these materials.
- Keep your boat’s engine well tuned for fuel efficiency. Don’t allow your motor to leak gas or oil into the water.
- Collect and save any unusable fishing equipment including those left behind by others.
- Try to recycle all unused fishing line.
- Freeze and then re-use fish parts as bait on your next fishing trip.
- ALWAYS use fish cleaning stations.
- Avoid releasing bait into the water, this can introduce foreign species into the environment.
- Use lead-free weights and biodegradable products when possible.
- Avoid leaving behind lures.
- Use an ash tray and always bring butts ashore. Cigarette waste alone contributes over 40% of marine debris
What happens to it all?
Another growing concern is that plastic materials, accumulating in the waterways over decades, are breaking down into microscopic particles that are now entering our water supplies.
Length of time to decompose:
- Cotton rope – 1 year
- Untreated plywood – 1-3 years
- Plastic bag – 10-20 years
- Commercial netting – 30-40 years
- Foam Plastic Buoy – 80 years
- Aluminum Can – 80-200 years
- Plastic Bottle – 450 years
- Monofilament Fishing – 600 years
- Glass Bottle – 1 million years
A single one-liter soda bottle could break down into enough fragments to put one fragment on every mile of beach in the entire world.
What should I do if I see marine debris in my watershed?
Boaters, fisherman and vacationers alike should make a habit of picking up and disposing of lose trash. Set the example, people will follow your leadership.
For hazardous material or large items; motor oil, tires, batteries, electronics. Visit Ohio EPA’s website to find your local recyclers and collection events.
What can I do to improve East Fork Watershed?
- Participate in annual clean-up efforts.
- Annually the East Fork River Sweep employs hundreds of volunteers to clean up a section of the East Fork River.
- In 2005 alone, nearly 250 bags of trash including 186 tires, 7 barrels, a propane tank, microwave oven and engine manifold were collected along a 10 miles stretch of shoreline.
- Volunteer with Clermont Clean & Green, a program dedicated to making Clermont County a cleaner community to live, learn and work in.
For more information please contact:
Becky McClatchey, Watershed Coordinator
East Fork Watershed Collaborative
P.O. BOX 549
Owensville, OH 45160