Marine debris removal efforts in the ocean and along our coasts are ongoing across the nation. These projects are specific in their methods depending upon location, debris type (e.g., construction debris from Hurricane Katrina to cigarette butt on the beach), ecosystem (e.g., coral reef sensitive habitat) and resources available (e.g., people power, funding, equipment, etc.). We can each do our part to not only remove but also prevent marine debris.
The United National Environment Programme (UNEP) has a Regional Seas Programme that addresses marine litter (what we call marine debris) on an international level with participation of more than 140 counties. Marine litter is one of their key issues. The Regional Seas Coordinating Office and Global Programme of Action are working to create a 'global initiative on marine litter.' This initiative would "provide a global platform for the establishment of partnerships, co-operation and co-ordination of activities for the control and sustainable management of marine litter." For more information visit http://www.unep.org/regionalseas/marinelitter/default.asp.
In the US, numerous entities, including NOAA, work in the international arena, through partnerships and projects leveraging resources and collaboratively addressing marine debris.
The NOAA Marine Debris program is involved in a variety of clean up efforts around the country but the challenge is immense. As an example, NOAA currently funds marine debris removal in the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument and has been removing more than 50 metric tons annually, but that is not keeping pace with the amounts that are washed up in this Pacific "hot spot" on an annual basis. Again the message is that we as humans need to reduce, reuse and recycle our trash.