Ecosystem Targets and Supporting Indicators

Marine Debris

Decrease the mass of marine debris in Long Island Sound by 2035, using as a metric a decrease from the 2013 baseline of 475 pounds of debris collected per mile during the fall International Coastal Cleanup.

Show/Hide Table Data

Pounds of Debris/Mile of Beach
Pounds of Debris/Mile of Beach5-Year Rolling Avg. (lbs of debris/mi)Pounds of DebrisMiles of Beach
2018142386 14,681104
Coastal Cleanup Effort from Baseline
5-year moving average (lbs/sq mi) from baseline% increase/decrease from baseline

Status and Trends

Every fall volunteers on both sites of Long Island Sound participate in beach and coastal park cleanups as part of the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup events. The number of pounds of debris collected per mile at these events based on a five-year moving average (2016-2021) is 141 pounds/mile, a 70 percent decrease from the baseline.

There are many variables that determine the amount of debris collected each year, including the types of debris collected, the number of volunteers, the weather, and if there were other cleanups on the beaches prior to the fall cleanup. In 2020, for example, the number of cleanups and amount of debris collected were significantly reduced because of the Covid-19 pandemic. But in Connecticut, while organized cleanups also declined, the amount of debris collected and the number of miles covered increased because Connecticut residents were using a self-reporting app developed by the Ocean Conservancy. More analysis is needed to determine whether the declining trend signals a reduction in coastal debris or if there are factors.

* In 2016, only data in New York was available, but in 2015 the five-year moving average showed a similar decline (10.65%) from the 2013 baseline.


Municipalities need to improve methods to capture debris in storm drains and combined sewer and storm drain systems before it deposits along the shoreline. Ultimately, citizens need to reduce litter and by use of fewer disposable bottles, bags, and containers.

How is This Target Measured?

Every fall, community groups from around the world sponsor coastal and beach cleanups and provide data on the trash collection for the Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

This target receives its data from Save the Sound in Connecticut and the American Littoral Society in New York, the local organizations that organize the cleanups and collect the data in Long Island Sound.


Marine animals can be entangled by debris such as fish lines and can choke on debris such as plastic bags. Marine animals can also ingest debris such as plastics, which can be harmful to their health and to their predators up the food chain to humans.


Robert Burg, NEIWPCC
[email protected]

Source of Data

American Littoral Society, Save the Sound


  • *Save the Sound did not collect beach cleanup data in 2016.
  • The technical explanation on how the target was selected is found in Appendix B of the Comprehensive Conservation and Management Plan.
  • Data for New York is compiled by the American Littoral Society New York State beach cleanup program from individual beach data reports submitted to the International Coastal Cleanup campaign by local beach cleanup volunteer “captains.” A similar process is conducted by Save the Sound in Connecticut. LISS does not include data of cleanups entered through the International Coastal Cleanup’s “Clean Swell” app because of difficulties in verifying the locations of where these cleanups occurred.
  • The CCMP states incorrectly that the five-year rolling average for marine debris removed per mile for the cleanup campaign from 2009-2013 was 313 pounds per mile. The correct number is 475 pounds per mile.
  • In 2015, Connecticut’s total declined, in part because five beach captains did not report their totals and there was not a cleanup at the Scantic River where volunteers picked up 5,000 pounds of debris in 2014.
  • In most years the collection of heavy water-based debris, including boats, docks, and boat parts are counted as a separate watercraft category and are not included in the shoreline cleanup indicator. However, in 2010 and 2015, Oyster Bay did include those collections in its reporting, which explains larger than usual totals. In 2010, Oyster Bay collected 48,500 pounds compared to the previous year of 1,500 pounds, and in 2015, Oyster Bay  collected over 41,000 pounds compared to the previous year of  10,600 pounds. In Connecticut in 2015, five beach captains did not report their totals to the International Coastal Cleanup program. In 2014, 19,500 pounds of water-based collections, including a floating dock pulled from the water, from Theodore Roosevelt Beach were not counted in the Marine Debris cleanup indicator.

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