The Marine Litter Act of 1989 prohibits the dumping of wastes, garbage and other debris from vessels and empowers the marine enforcement officers to uphold and enforce the provisions as set forth in the act. U.S. Coast Guard officers are further authorized to make arrests under federal law.
Marine Litter Regulation
- “Vessel” means any boat, barge or other vehicle operating in the marine environment from the largest supertanker to the smallest recreational craft.
- “Person” means any human individual discharging garbage from land, vessel, plane or fixed or floating platforms.
- “Garbage” means all food wastes, but does not include fresh fish or their parts.
- “Closed Container” means any sealed and properly labeled receptacle.
It shall be unlawful for any person or vessel to discharge any type of plastics, including synthetic ropes, fishing nets, garbage bags and other garbage, including paper products, glass, metal, dunnage, lining and packing materials, into the marine waters of this state.
All marinas and access areas used by vessels shall be required to have proper disposal facilities on site.
All vessels shall have on board a clearly marked closed container for the proper disposal of waste, trash and other garbage. Signage shall be posted on board notifying passengers and crew that it is unlawful to dispose of waste, trash and other garbage into the marine waters of the State of Mississippi.
The size and volume of the container shall be determined by the length and purpose of the cruise/voyage, the number of passengers and crew on board and the amount of trash or garbage to be generated. Closed containers shall include, but not be limited to, buckets or cans with lids, or watertight garbage bags with appropriate ties. Closed containers shall be clearly and permanently marked TRASH with weather-resistant materials.
The regulations contained herein shall not apply during the following emergencies:
- Discharges of garbage from a ship for the purpose of securing the safety of a ship and those on board or saving life at sea.
- The escape of garbage resulting from damage to a ship or its equipment, if all reasonable precautions have been taken before and after the occurrence of the damage to prevent or minimize the escape.
- The accidental loss of synthetic fishing nets or the loss of synthetic material during repair of nets, provided all reasonable precautions have been taken to prevent such losses.
- Refuse or other flotsam found in nets during trawling activities may legally be returned to the sea without violating these regulations. Regulations prohibit the intentional discharge of fishing nets at sea.
Note that it is illegal to throw trash or allow it to enter into the State of Mississippi’s waters from piers, docks, bridges or land.
Any person or vessel convicted of violating any provision of these regulations shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $500. Each day of a continuing violation constitutes a separate violation. Violations of more than one section or subsection of these regulations or parts thereof shall be considered separate offenses and punished as such.
Any person or vessel convicted of a second or subsequent violation of any provisions of these regulations shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and upon conviction shall be punished by a fine not to exceed $10,000.
Any person violating federal marine litter laws may receive fines up to $50,000. A provision of the federal law may award a portion of criminal penalties or civil fines assessed against a violation to the person who gives information that leads to a conviction or assessment of a penalty.
Mississippi Coastal Cleanup
The Mississippi Coastal Cleanup is held the third Saturday of October as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, during which coastal states and countries around the world dedicate the day to ridding the coastline of marine debris. Mississippi has one of the most successful cleanups in the world. Along with the event, the MDMR helps promote marine debris awareness and education on prevention throughout the year. Visit mscoastalcleanup.org to find out how you can participate in the next Coastal Cleanup, the largest event to help stop marine debris.
Mississippi Monofilament Recycling Program
The MDMR and partners launched the state’s Monofilament Recycling Program in 2008 in an effort to reduce the amount of fishing line in the environment. Monofilament is a strand of strong, flexible plastic used for fishing. The majority is non-degradable in water and lasts about 600 years in the environment.
Fishing line recycling tubes and bins can be found at about 30 piers and harbors across the Mississippi Gulf Coast. Carefully disposing of monofilament in these tubes and bins can help prevent fish and wildlife entanglements and death, and the destruction of boat propellers and intake valves.
For more information on the Mississippi Monofilament Recycling Program or for a list of tube and bin locations, go to dmr.ms.gov and click on Marine Fisheries.