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Marine Debris

We can't imagine swimming in a sea of plastic. Or serving it for dinner. But the pervasive amount of marine debris polluting San Diego's ocean leads us that direction. Plastic pollution and other litter in San Diego's ocean harms marine life that mistake it for food or become entangled, and it also poses a threat to human health and safety.

Nearly 80 percent of marine debris comes from land and the sources include industrial outfalls, land fill, littering, dumping and poor waste management. The main types of debris include plastics, glass, metal, polystyrene (StyrofoamTM), rubber, wood, derelict fishing gear and derelict vessels.

san_luis_rey_trashPhoto GirlChasesGlobe.comThat's why San Diego Coastkeeper coordinates monthly beach cleanups, including our Beach Cleanup in a Box and Sponsored Cleanups. We record the types and amounts of debris removed during these cleanups. We use these data from our beach cleanups to influence policy decisions, educate the public and local businesses about litter in San Diego and ask for policy changes to reduce its harmful effects on the environment. 

Ocean-based debris from commercial fishing, shipping, oil sectors, recreational boating and military vessels makes 20 percent of all marine debris. Marine organisms suffer as they entangle in debris, frequently from derelict fishing gear, such as lost fishing lines and traps. Derelict fishing gear can cause wounds, impair mobility, increase vulnerability to predators and strangle marine organisms.

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In addition to removing trash from San Diego's beaches, we aim to stop marine debris pollution at the source. We fight to reduce the use of StyrofoamTM and plastic bottles in the City of San Diego and other cities. From supporting efforts to ban smoking on San Diego beaches, which noticeably impacted the number of butts found at beach cleanups, to leading the movement to ban single-use plastic bags, we impact San Diego policy and motivate decision makers to think harder about plastics.

Prevention gets the gold star, but litter still haunts San Diego's beaches. Donate to empower us, volunteer in San Diego and make small changes such as using a reusable water bottle, bringing your own grocery bags, and reducing consumption of plastic products to make a huge impact for the environment.

Earn your own gold star.

Slideshow photo credits include NOAA and Andre Lima.

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Fishable Facts

  • Kelp forests play home to more than 700 species of marine creatures.
  • Many factors including pollution, climate change, and over-fishing contribute to kelp forest decline, and their collective impact is far greater than any individual stressor.
  • Research has shown that grazing by inflated sea urchins populations damaged kelp forests and slowed recovery in the '50s to '70s off Point Loma. Sea otters, lobster, and sheephead fish are important predators, keeping urchin populations in check.
  • Many fish off California's coast are in such decline that some species will take 50-80 years to recover to healthy levels.
  • La Jolla's lush kelp forest is like a stand of underwater redwoods – it provides food and shelter for hundreds of species, from tiny invertebrates to fish, mammals and birds.
  • Since 1990, revenues from commercial fishing have declined by more than half and the number of fishing boats calling at California ports has declined by nearly three-quarters.
  • Average size across a wide range of West Coast fish is down by half from 20 years ago.
  • A 40-cm bocaccio rockfish produces an average of just over 200,000 eggs per year, whereas an 80-cm fish at double the length produces nearly 10 times as many eggs (2 million)!
  • Nearly 80 percent of marine debris comes from land-based sources.
  • Regardless of their size, plastic pollution bits are not digestible by any creature.
  • More than 60 percent of all marine debris is plastic.
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SAN DIEGO COASTKEEPER
2825 Dewey Rd., Ste. 200 • San Diego CA 92106 • TEL. 619.758.7743