Clean Boater Program

Marine Debris, Trash, Garbage & Fish Waste

Floating debris and solid objects may result in structural damage to boats or mechanical failures. Garbage in the water or washed up on the beach is unsightly and can injure or kill birds, fish, marine turtles and mammals.

Trash is Dangerous

Trash tossed or blown overboard, absent-mindedly left on the beach or at dockside is more than just unsightly. Once in the water it has the potential to disable vessels. Something as trivial as a plastic baggie or piece of fishing line can be sucked into an intake or propeller, causing delays and costly repairs. Trash, especially plastic, can entrap or suffocate sea mammals, birds, and fish. Small pieces can look like food and be ingested causing harm or death to the animal that eats it. Thousands of marine birds, fish, turtles and mammals die each year from entanglement in marine debris. Common items like sixpack rings, fishing line and strapping bands are mistaken for food. Numerous species ingest plastic, which causes them to feel full and die of starvation or poisoning. According to the U.S. Coast Guard, recreational boaters dispose of approximately 422,000 tons of domestic trash and garbage into U.S. waters yearly. This amounts to an average of more than one pound of trash and garbage each time a boater goes out on a boat.

What’s the Law?

ANNEX V of MARPOL, the International Treaty was designed to reduce the amount of ship-generated trash and garbage dumped into the ocean:

  • Prohibits the disposal of all plastics from vessels in the ocean and navigable waters
  • Restricts the disposal of most other types of refuse materials, depending on distance from shore
  • Requires ports to provide adequate disposal facilities. The U.S. Coast Guard requires vessels 26' and over to prominently display a MARPOL placard to notify all passengers and crew of Annex V discharge rules and penalties. Vessels 40' and over must display the placard and prepare a written waste management plan. For more information contact the U.S. Coast Guard. Be advised that littering on the water is a violation of the Connecticut General Statutes, Section 22a-250 and is subject to fines up to $219 per occurrence.
Tips for Marine Debris, Trash, Garbage
  • Keep trash from blowing overboard.
  • Designate a covered bin for trash.
  • Discard fish waste offshore unless there are length limits for the type of fish caught.
  • If cleaning fish at a marina, use a designated area.
  • Freeze and reuse fish scraps as chum or bait.
  • Take particular care to properly dispose of nylon fishing line. Dispose of fishing line at your local tackle shop.
  • Buy food in bulk to avoid excess packaging.
  • Store food in reusable containers.
  • Buy products with minimal or recyclable packaging.
  • Carry out what you carry in.
  • Never discard cigarette butts into the water, the filters don't disintegrate.
  • Discard trash in a dumpster at the marina or take it home.
Content Last Updated on December 26, 2019.