Travel between countries is beginning again in many places in the world. Travel for humans, that is. For those that live in the natural world, this is the season for migration and travel is just part of the normal cycle of things regardless of political boundaries. This is particularly true in the water where there is a literal fluidity of movement from place to place: shallow to deep, north to south, or salty to fresh. The ocean is perhaps the best example of a global resource where all the water is connected, and so is everything that lives in it.

In an effort to recognize the cross-boundary nature of ocean creatures, states and even countries sometimes work together to monitor who lives where and when. The Gulf of Maine is a boundary-crossing body of water on multiple levels. While it has “Maine” in its title, it stretches across New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts to the south. To the north, it reaches up into Canada. One of the groups that has pulled together the many parties working on and studying the Gulf of Maine recently received funding to address the issue of marine debris in a collaborative way.

The Gulf of Maine Association is a non-profit whose mission is “to maintain and enhance environmental quality in the Gulf of Maine and allow for sustainable resource use by existing and future generations”. Partners in the Association have worked together on both research and policy in the past. The recently awarded grant is part of a larger initiative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s (NOAA) North America Marine Debris Prevention and Removal program that provides funding to prevent and remove debris from the oceans across the country as well as down into Mexico and up into Canada.

For this particular project, there are a number of familiar players who will be involved in the efforts to reduce marine debris in the Gulf of Maine. They include the Blue Ocean Society for the Marine Environment, Center for Coastal Studies, Huntsman Marine Science Centre, Maine Coastal Program – Maine Department of Marine Resources, Surfrider Foundation, Urban Harbors Institute and the five jurisdictions bordering the Gulf of Maine. The grant totals over $367K with an additional $448K in matching support. It enables these groups to move forward in implementing NOAA’s 2019 Gulf of Maine Marine Debris Action Plan.

Marine debris is a major problem facing all of the world’s oceans and so the effort to address it is not new. Many of the groups that are a part of this current grant have also worked together as a part of the International Ocean Clean-up day that happens every September around the world. Ocean Conservancy, a D.C.based nonprofit that advocates for sustainable ocean policy, coordinates these efforts and also collects data from the clean-ups in order to advocate for better policies to address marine debris. The effort began in 1986 with one small clean-up in Texas and has now grown to include over 100 countries worldwide.

Going even more local, there are clean-ups that happen regularly along the waterfront in many coastal Maine communities. For example, last weekend, a group of shellfish harvesters met at Wharton Point, one of the primary launch points for those who dig for clams, to clean up trash and debris along the shore at the launch as well as in other nearby areas. This is a regular activity for harvesters that participate in one of the town’s intertidal conservation projects. At this point, volunteers have to go further afield to find anything to collect because the efforts have made such a difference over time.

Marine debris is a serious threat to the oceans and it is a great step to have groups collaborating across boundaries to address it. As many of us have learned through the pandemic, we are all connected more closely than we may have previously thought and what happens in what part of the world impacts another. Getting involved in a local effort to reduce marine debris is a tangible way to make a global impact. To learn more about this project, go to

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