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Marine Microplastics

The NCEI Marine Microplastics product provides access to aggregated global data on microplastics in marine settings. The information is used to improve water quality and protect the ecosystem, especially coastal ecological habitats such as salt marshes and mangrove forests that help recycle nutrients, serve as breeding grounds for fingerlings, and permanent homes for oysters and other coastal marine wildlife. This product can also be used to validate remote sensing technologies that identify and characterize microplastics from space. In the long-run, this geodatabase can help guide society’s strategies for mitigating microplastics in the marine environment.

Courtesy of NOAA Marine Debris Program

Access Methods

The Microplastics Application has information on the occurrence, distribution, and quantity of global microplastics. Data is available in CSV, JSON, and GeoJSON formats. A GIS-based map shows the global distribution of data submitted to our database. The NCEI Marine Microplastics Map Portal within the application allows users to download the entire dataset, or subset of data for a particular geographical region and time period. For instructions on how to download some or all of the data in the database, see the Download Data Tab. For more information about using the interface, accessing data, etc., please see the Help page.

Launch Microplastics Map


This product is a publicly available collection of marine microplastics data from around the world. The database is a repository for multiple datasets of marine microplastics. The data are aggregated, archived, and accessible to users in a consistent and reliable manner. Contributors from various research cruises and field work provide the data. This is a growing database and data collectors are encouraged to submit findings to NCEI for inclusion in the Marine Microplastics application.

Data Usage Disclaimer: Microplastics vary in origin, density, chemical properties, morphology, size and color. At present, there is no single combination of methods for sampling, extracting, analyzing, and reporting. Thus, the microplastic concentrations in the database may not always be comparable across studies. Users should consider the metadata in the archives which contain more details about the data records (such as sampling protocols and instrumental analysis) for further usability of the data.

Download Data

Data on the interactive map can be exported (i.e., downloaded) three different ways:

Export Data Using the Filter Display Tool

  1. Use the Filter Display Panel to customize the desired records to be exported.
  2. Select the Data Table tab to show the data records in the right panel.
  3. Use the Show/hide columns button to customize specific data columns/record information, if needed. 
  4. From the Actions menu, select Export all.
  5. Choose the desired format (JSON, CSV, GeoJSON) to export the data. 
  6. After exporting the data, click the Reset filters button  at the bottom to clear the selected data and return to the default.
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Export Data Using the Selection Tool

  1. Click the Selection Tool to activate the draw tool. 
  2. Click, hold and drag the left mouse button over the map to draw a box over the desired area if the rectangle drawing tool is selected.
  3. Select the Data Information tab to see the attributes of the selected data in the Display Filter Panel. The number of records in the selected area is displayed. 
  4. From the Actions menu, select Export selected.
  5. Choose the desired format to export the data. 

Export the Entire Database/Data Records

  1. There is also a tool to download the entire contents of the Marine Microplastics Database.
  2. If data has been filtered, click the Reset filters button  at the bottom of the Display Filter Panel to clear all filters and return to default settings. Otherwise, skip this step and start at step 2 below.
  3. Select the Data Table tab to show the data records in the right panel. 
  4. Use the Show/hide columns button to customize specific data columns/record information, if needed. 
  5. From the Actions menu, select Export all. 
  6. Choose the desired format to export the data. 
    1. A popup warning, “Are you sure you want to export all data records? Exporting large dataset will take time”, is displayed. 
  7. Click Export to export the entire data records




Nyadjro, E.S., Webster, J.A.B., Boyer, T.P., Cebrian, J., Collazo, L., Kaltenberger, G., Larsen, K., Lau, Y., Mickle, P., Toft, T., Wang, Z. The NOAA NCEI marine microplastics database. Sci Data 10, 726 (2023).  

What Are Microplastics?

Microplastics are plastics that are smaller than 5 mm (.20 in). While microplastics primarily come from plastic materials like bottles and bags, they also enter ecosystems from clothes and cosmetics. Microplastics are pervasive throughout the environment. They are found in oceans, rivers, estuaries, lakes, the atmosphere, beaches, sea ice, and sediments. Microplastics are most often created on land and then are carried by rivers and wind to oceans, where they become part of the global ocean circulation system. Once in the ocean, fish and other marine organisms ingest microplastics. This can kill those organisms or become part of the food chain for fish and ultimately humans. The increase in microplastics pollution is a growing concern, affecting coastal communities, marine ecosystems, marine life, human health, and the economy.

Marine microplastics are found from the sea surface to the sediment covering the ocean floor. In addition to harming aquatic organisms and ecosystems, microplastics pollution affects economies in many ways, including clean-up costs, the decline of fisheries, and coastal tourism. Over time, lost fishing gear breaks down through abrasion and biofouling resulting in the release of microplastic fragments and fibers. Fish can end up consuming these pieces of microplastic exposing them to toxic chemicals that can result in a variety of health problems from neurotoxicity, growth retardation, and behavioral abnormalities or death. Seafood is the main source of animal protein for approximately 20% of the global population (1.4 billion people). Marine microplastics endanger this source of protein by reducing the efficiency and productivity of aquaculture and commercial fisheries through fish mortality. One study estimates that 19 to 23 million metric tons, or 11%, of plastic waste generated globally in 2016 entered aquatic ecosystems, with this estimate expected to increase to 53 million metric tons per year by 2030.

One study estimates that 19 to 23 million metric tons, or 11%, of plastic waste generated globally in 2016 entered aquatic ecosystems, with this estimate expected to increase to 53 million metric tons per year by 2030.

Data Submission Process

The microplastics database would not exist without the help of data contributors. This evolving project needs community support to grow. Submitting your microplastic data to NCEI will make your research more visible and accessible, and help quantify and stop the global spread of plastic particles.

We recommend using ASCII character encoding (e.g., comma-separated values (CSV) or NetCDF) but no specific format is required.

To submit your microplastic data to the archive, please contact NCEI at

NCEI Data Submission Guidelines

User Manual

Visit the help page for detailed instructions on how to view, access, and download data in the Microplastics interactive map. 

Marine Microplastic Concentration Map Portal Help Page