Marine debris, the silent killer of the ocean

As a mission of NASGA, we work to assist other non-profit organizations to protect and restore the nations shorelines and waterways.  Recent studies have shown that although progress is being made, there is still so much to be done.

Our beaches and waterways are littered with “stuff” that doesn’t belong in them. Marine debris comes in many forms, ranging from small plastic cigarette butts toMarine debris from underwater
4,000-pound derelict fishing nets. Plastic bags, glass, metal, Styrofoam, tires, derelict fishing gear, and abandoned vessels are all examples of debris that often ends up in our waterways.


How is the United States trying to help clean up the oceans, waterways and beaches we all love?

Marine Debris Poster (4) AI9 The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has monitored marine debris since the Marine Debris Act was signed by Congress in 2006, and started the Marine Debris Program.  Marine debris, known as flotsam and jetsam, follows the oceans movement, through currents, following tides and eventually makes landfall.

One of the main types of marine debris that you hear about today is plastic marine debris. In many places, it is the main type of debris that you will see as you walk along a beach.   As common as they are on our beaches and in our homes, how much do you really know about plastics?

As society has developed new uses for plastics, the variety and quantity of plastic items found in the marine environment has increased dramatically.  Plastics can enter into the marine environment a number of ways: through ineffective or improper waste management, intentional or accidental dumping and littering on shorelines or at sea, or through storm water runoff. Eventually, these plastics will degrade into smaller and smaller pieces.

Plastics are used in many aspects of daily life and are a big part of our waste stream. Many plastics are colorful and will float in water, which makes plastic debris a very visible part of the marine debris problem. However, an accurate estimate does not yet exist for how much debris is composed of plastic materials.

Coral is the rainforest of the sea, and marine debris, especially large and heavy debris, can crush and damage coral. In the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, which has one of the healthiest and least disturbed coral reef ecosystems in the United States,has an estimated 52 tons of derelict fishing nets accumulate every year.


FfE-LogoThe nets that drift there can be enormous, and when tangled together, weigh hundreds of pounds! Commercial or recreational fishers have been helping corals out by disposing of unwanted fishing gear through programs, such as National Fish and Wildlife Foundations Fishing for Energy.


NOAA recently published the Ten Things You Should Know About Marine Debris, that is not only informative, but also makes one think of ways to personally make a change to help the shorelines and marine environment.

A 3D rendering of the ocean cleanup array, a special device that 19-year old Dutch student, Boyan Slat, believes could clean up the world’s oceans, all while keeping plankton and fish safe from harm.

There have been many new inventive ideas, many from high school and college students, whom study Oceanography, Marine Technology and the like.  A few of these new inventions are being tested all around the world, with results that are hoping to help reduce the steady flow of debris floating around the Earth’s oceans. One of these new inventions is the The Ocean Clean Up, a spacecraft looking marine craft, motoring along the water collecting the debris.  The brainchild of a Aerospace Engineer student, Boyan Slat, the 19 year old wrote about his invention for a school paper in 2012, which won many accolades.  Boyan hopes his invention, which would cost about $30 million a year to operate, could remove 50 years worth of the ocean’s debris within 10 years.  Can it be done?  We certainly hope so!  Boyan is raising money to start the operation, and of this posting, has made the $2 million dollar goal, and will soon begin to make his dream a reality.  Although not a non-profit, his innovations will surely change the way we clean up our oceans.

So how can we, the beachcombing sea glass collectors help?  For starters, we can start at home.  If we reuse more, recycle more, and waste less, the amount of our trash making it to our oceans and waterways will decrease.

Another easy thing we can all do is to bring a separate bag for beach trash when we go hunting for sea glass!   Sounds easy enough, but do you do it?  We’d like to propose to all beachcombers everywhere to grab a bag before you go, and as you hunt for treasure, pick up the trash along the way.  Not only will it make us feel good for helping the environment, it’s a great workout (think of all those squats!) and it will also help fulfill our mission to restore the shorelines.

Lastly, join your local area beach clean-ups, there are many local, regional and national programs to help get your started!   Did you know that National Coastal Clean Up Day is the third Saturday in September every year?

As we start our new year, let’s make strides to help the environment every day, and don’t forget to mark your calendar, September 19, 2015 for next year’s Coastal Clean Up Day!

NASGA Shard of the Year, a collectors dream come true

Each year during the North American Sea Glass Festival, the Shard of the Year (“SOTY”) contest, is held in memory of Joanne Schrieber, founder of the 2004 North East Sea Glass Festival.  Private collectors are given an opportunity to show off some of their special pieces.  The 2014 contest showcased nearly 800 entries, and was truly an amazing display of treasured finds.

All shards of genuine sea glass from around the world are eligible for entry into the Shard of the Year contest, not just shards from “North America”.   Every beachcomber treasure found has a little bit of history within it, but during the Shard of the Year contest, it’s a time to showcase the rare finds. 

It is a beauty contest, where the most unusual pristine piece is awarded the grand prize, $1,000 dollars, and is named winner of the Overall Beauty category, and bragging rights to it’s owner for years to come!  

Grand Prize winner, Lou Marcotte, with NASGA President Richard LaMotte
Grand Prize winner, Lou Marcotte, with NASGA President Richard LaMotte

The 2014 Shard of the Year grand prize winner, Lou Marcotte, submitted a beautiful red piece found in the Dominican Republic.

Overall Winner-Marcotte shard
Photo Credit: Gary de Blois

The piece was from a glass candlestick, made by Westmoreland Glass Company sometime in the late 1940’s, early 1950’s.   The pattern of this particular candlestick is Doric, and as shown in the photo below, the original was a beauty as well.

History photo credit:  Janice Pierce
History photo credit: Janice Pierce

The remaining categories were runner-up, pottery/ceramics, whimsical/toys, bottle stopper, most unusual, historical, art glass, buttons, figural and marbles.

2014 Shard of the Year Winners. Photo Credit Gary de Blois


A huge thank you to Gary de Blois, who photographed the 2014 Shard of the Year contest.  To find out more about the Shard of the Year contest and NASGA, please visit the North American Sea Glass Festival website.

Details Announced for the 2014 North American Sea Glass Festival in Cape May, New Jersey

Sea glass collectors and aficionados from throughout North America will gather in Cape May, New Jersey this fall to share their treasures from the sea and learn more about this increasingly popular pastime. The 9th annual North American Sea Glass Festival will be held September 27-28 from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. at the Cape May Convention Hall, 714 Beach Avenue in beautiful Cape May. Admission is $5 daily at the door, and the public is invited.

2014 North American Sea Glass Festival
NASGA President, Richard LaMotte showing a young sea glass enthusiast how to distinguish real sea glass from fake tumbled glass.

New to this year’s festival will be the Open Sea Glass Forum, an interactive general question and answer discussion moderated by members of the North American Sea Glass Association. In addition, festival attendees will enjoy presentations from sea glass experts regarding the history and origins of sea glass as well as stunning displays of rare and collectible sea glass.

2014 North American Sea Glass Festival
Beautiful sea glass jewelry, art and home decor can be found at the North American Sea Glass Festival with artisans from all over the United States in attendance at the Cape May festival this year. Festival photo credits: Gary du Blois

Over fifty exhibits by sea glass collectors, artisans, and authors will feature only genuine sea glass combed from beaches around the world.  Please see the Participating Exhibitors tab for a complete list.

2014 North American Sea Glass Festival
the highly anticipated Shard of the Year contest brings a lot of Ooohs and Ahhhs… and a chance to win $1,000.00 – Festival photo credits: Gary du Blois

The annual “Shard of the Year”contest awards $1,000 to the grand prize winner as well as additional cash prizes in numerous categories. Please see details at the SOTY Contest tab on the left.

The North American Sea Glass Association is proud to announce that a portion of the festival proceeds will benefit two New Jersey non-profit entities: Clean Ocean Action and the Wetlands Institute. You can read more about these groups on the NASGA Blog

Cape May Conventional HallThe beautiful new Cape May Conventional Hall is located directly on the beach facing the Atlantic Ocean. The historic City of Cape May, New Jersey, is rolling out the red carpet for the Sea Glass Festival and is a fantastic seaside community to bring the entire family.

CapeMay-LewesFerryThe Cape May-Lewes Ferry is offering a 30% off discount to festival goers. Please click  here for information on the ferry discount,  be sure to book your reservations early!  You’ll also find directions to the Convention Hall and the festival, a partial hotel listing for properties close to the Convention Hall, and much more local information.

2014 North American Sea Glass Festival poster

2014 Festival Poster

This year’s beautiful poster photography using the Cape May lighthouse as a backdrop is by Anita Roth, Anita Roth Photography. The graphic artist was Francine Mueller, Sea Goddess Treasures. Both are commercial members of NASGA.  The poster can be purchased for $10 plus $6 postage by clicking this link: 2014 Poster

All of this information and more can be found on the North American Sea Glass Festival website. Be sure to share this important information with your fellow sea glass enthusiasts.  See you in September!


NASGA to donate to The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, New Jersey

Every year the North American Sea Glass Association holds it’s annual North American Sea Glass Festival, and every year, the festival donates to a few local charitable organizations that focus on environmental concerns, shoreline protection and clean-ups, all which are also part of the NASGA mission.

This year, the NASGA Sea Glass Festival will be held September 27 and 28th at the Cape May Convention Hall in Cape May, New Jersey.   So, in keeping with past traditions, the NASGA Board of Directors wanted to make sure the donations would stay in New Jersey, to help local environmental efforts.  The Board of Directors voted on two organizations, this blog entry will introduce the second charitable organizations chosen, The Wetlands Institute located in Stone Harbor, New Jersey.
The Wetlands Institute is a hands on non-profit, focusing on the preservation of coastal waterways, wetlands and ecosystems through research, education, conservation and citizen action.   As their vision and mission statement suggests,  they strive for a world where wetlands and coastal ecosystems thrive, and educate people on how essential these systems are to life.   Their goals focus on promoting the appreciation, understanding & stewardship of the wetlands and coastal ecosystems through their programs and stewardship in research, education & conservation.

Since its foundation in 1969, The Wetlands Institute has actively engaged in a wide variety of research projects pertaining to the habitats, processes, and wildlife of the local barrier beach and wetland ecosystems. Each summer, The Wetlands Institute runs the Coastal Conservation Research Program (CCRP), which provides 5-10 student interns mentoring and supervised research opportunities with experienced research scientists.  The Wetlands Institute is a proud founding member of EarthShare New Jersey, the only environmental federation for workplace giving in the state.  To find out more about the history of The Wetlands Institute, visit their History page here.

To see upcoming events, festivals, class schedules, or to find out about volunteering or visiting The Wetlands Institute in Stone Harbor, please visit their website.
The Wetlands Institute is a 501(c)3 tax exempt nonprofit organization.

written by Kim Hannon, NASGA Board Member