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A Voice for our Ocean

MEDIA ADVISORY: Ocean Conservancy and Sitka Sound Science Center to Host Flagship International Coastal Cleanup in Sitka, AK

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SITKA, AK (August 23, 2023) – On Tuesday, August 29, Ocean Conservancy and the Sitka Sound Science Center will host a beach cleanup near Sitka, Alaska as part of the 38th annual International Coastal Cleanup, the world’s largest volunteer effort for our ocean.

The cleanup will take place on Biorka Island, where volunteers expect to find all types of marine debris, from tiny microplastic pieces to large amounts of abandoned, lost, or discarded fishing gear. The cleanup will highlight the challenge of removing marine debris from shorelines in Alaska, a process that can be difficult, dangerous and expensive. Trash collected will be removed from Biorka Island by vessel and transported to Sitka for recycling and disposal. Ahead of the event, the Sitka Sound Science center will host a Marine Debris Mingle on Monday, August 28 with partners from Sitka and across the state.

Since the effort began on the shores of Texas in 1986, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup has mobilized approximately 18 million volunteers to remove nearly 360 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways worldwide. Volunteers log every item they find and contribute to the world’s largest repository of marine debris data, collecting data on nearly 400 million items.

“Marine debris affects coastal communities across Alaska, and tackling a problem this big takes creativity, community and commitment,” said Kristina Tirman, Arctic Marine Debris Manager at Ocean Conservancy. “Cleanups like this one in Sitka are the result of countless hours of planning and collaboration between groups of all sizes working towards the shared goal of an Alaska free from marine debris. We’re excited to be convening partners from across the state to share strategies and solutions and look forward to this and future events.”

“Sitka Sound Science Center is enthusiastic about sharing marine debris issues with the Congressional delegation as it fits in with the educational part of our mission,” said Lisa Busch, Executive Director, Sitka Sound Science Center. “Engagement in cleanups really builds a deeper understanding of ocean ecosystems, and the changes humans are making on the planet. We are appreciative of the work that Senator Sullivan has done to improve ocean health through the Save our Seas Act and the funding Senator Murkowski has helped usher toward coastal communities dependent on the sea.”

“Alaska is home to more coastline than the entire contiguous United States, and is disproportionately affected by debris entering our oceans. Recognizing this unique challenge and the impacts it has on our coastal communities and marine ecosystems, I’ve worked diligently to pass historic legislation mobilizing all stakeholders to tackle the global marine debris crisis and supporting funding for local clean-up efforts,” said Sen. Dan Sullivan. “I want to commend everyone participating in the International Coastal Cleanup, especially those embarking on this major cleanup on Biorka Island. Your hard work and dedication to our oceans are a service to our communities that will help restore the pristine state of this environment for future generations.”

“The health of our oceans is collectively all of our responsibility, and that’s why it’s so exciting to see volunteer efforts like this that address debris in our oceans,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski. “Tackling this issue is the reason I was so focused on delivering funding for the Ocean Conservancy’s pilot program, which will backhaul marine debris from remote coastal communities in Alaska. My thanks go to the dedicated volunteers and organizations for their unwavering commitment to this vital endeavor.”

NOTE TO MEDIA: Limited spots are available for transport to Biorka Island. If you are interested in attending, please contact Kristina Tirman at [email protected].  Photos and video footage will be available following the cleanup.

WHO The cleanup will be hosted by Ocean Conservancy in partnership with the Sitka Sound Science Center. Representatives from both organizations will be in attendance and available for interview.


Other event attendees will include representatives from:

–        The office of Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK)

–        Alaska Sea Grant

–        NOAA Marine Debris Program

–        The Aleut Community of St. Paul Island

–        Takshanuk Watershed Council

–        Central Council of the Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska

–        Center for Alaska Coastal Studies

–        Many local Sitka organizations

WHAT Marine debris cleanup with participants from national, state, and local organizations; located on Biorka Island, requiring vessel transport and a short hike to the site. Cleanup will include a lunch and participants are invited to join a complimentary post-event celebration dinner.

Ahead of the cleanup, Ocean Conservancy and the Sitka Sound Science center are hosting a Marine Debris Mingle at 5:30pm on Monday, August 28, at Sitka Sound Science Center, with all organizational partners present. Please RSVP to this event by contacting Kristina Tirman at [email protected].

WHERE Biorka Island, Sitka, AK

Meeting at Crescent Harbor

WHEN Tuesday, August 29, 8:00am – 2:00pm


Additional partner statements can be found below.

“On St. Paul Island, marine debris continuously washes up on our shorelines in incredibly high amounts, where it threatens our wildlife and ecosystems. Our small community is left to find the resources and partners needed to clean up tens of thousands of pounds of debris lost or discarded by others, primarily fishing industries, each year. Ocean Conservancy has been an important partner in this effort, and the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island is pleased to be part of the community cleanup in Sitka.” – Lauren Divine, Director, Ecosystem Conservation Office with the Aleut Community of St. Paul Island

“We strive to keep the public informed about the problems caused by marine debris on our remote coastlines. Education, outreach and community involvement can help us meet the goal of reducing the amount of trash that washes ashore. Along with partners like Ocean Conservancy, Takshanuk Watershed Council dedicates time, energy and a commitment to recognize the problem and take direct action against it.” – Tracy Wirak-Cassidy, Education Coordinator at Takshanuk Watershed Council

“Coastal Alaska lives off what the ocean can provide. Whether that is commercial salmon, subsistence clams, recreational halibut, marine mammals, or tourism brought in by the natural beauty of this state, Alaskan communities depend on ocean resources. Marine debris on our coasts and in our waters, as it affects each of these and many more resources, deeply impacts lives across the entire state. The data we are able to gather during cleanup efforts is a powerful tool in addressing marine debris because it helps us develop approaches to help address this problem recognizing the unique resources and challenges in each community while getting a state-wide picture of marine debris.” – Henry Reiske, Marine Debris Coordinator, Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies, Homer, AK

“The Seacoast Indigenous Guardians Network’s mission is rooted in Indigenous values and aims to restore balance to Southeast Alaska’s coastal communities and ecosystems. Our collaboration with Ocean Conservancy and Sitka Sound Science Center for the 38th International Coastal Cleanup is just one way we amplify this vision. Guided by tradition and driven by collaboration, we are committed to fostering environmental stewardship, thriving oceans and empowered communities.” – Richard J. Peterson Chalyee Éesh, President, Central Council Tlingit & Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska

“Plastics have been found in every corner of the planet; and sadly, Alaska is no exception. Plastics of all shapes and sizes wash up on Alaskan shorelines, often by the ton. For nearly 40 years, Ocean Conservancy has mobilized millions of volunteers to help remove trash from beaches and waterways through the International Coastal Cleanup, but in a place like Alaska, where the places most in need of help are often difficult to access, volunteer cleanups alone aren’t enough. That’s why Ocean Conservancy is thrilled to be partnering with groups across Alaska for high impact cleanups like this one.” – Nick Mallos, Vice President of Ocean Plastics at Ocean Conservancy.



Photos and B-roll of past International Coastal Cleanup events can be found here.

About Ocean Conservancy

Ocean Conservancy is working to protect the ocean from today’s greatest global challenges. Together with our partners, we create evidence-based solutions for a healthy ocean and the wildlife and communities that depend on it. For more information, visit, or follow us on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram.

About Sitka Sound Science Center

Sitka Sound Science Center is dedicated to increasing awareness and understanding of aquatic, marine and terrestrial ecosystems of coastal Alaska through education and research. Our vision is to be the leading scientific and educational institution in coastal Alaska through innovative, inspiring and community-centered programming. For more information, visit or follow us on Facebook or Instagram.

Media Contact

Madeline Black




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