Ocean Currents

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Ocean Currents

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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About Allison Schutes

Allison is the Manager of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Program, based in Washington, D.C. Her passion is teaching people of all ages about the ocean, the amazing animals who call it home and what individuals can do to help conserve and protect this incredible ecosystem. Having landed in D.C. from Florida, when Allison isn’t working, she can be found exploring the city and searching for the nearest shoreline.

To the Point (and Nonpoint): Understanding Sewage Pollution and Stormwater Runoff

Posted On June 3, 2015 by

Photo: Corduroy LeFevre

As a boater or marina operator, you have probably experienced first-hand the effects of pollutants. Although you may make every feasible effort to prevent pollutants from entering your local waters, not all sources are easy to pinpoint. Here is a quick refresher of some of the most common types and sources of contaminants.

Most pollution can be categorized as “point” or “nonpoint” discharges. Point sources of pollution – such as outfall pipes – introduce pollution into the environment at a specific site or point. They are generally the easiest to identify, monitor and regulate.

By contrast, nonpoint source pollution comes from a plethora of diffuse sources and is unconstrained in movement. Nonpoint source pollution is caused by water (typically rainfall or snowmelt) moving over and through the ground. Sources include storm drains and runoff from parking lots, roadways or agricultural land.

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When It Comes to Oil and Fuel Spills, Prevention is the Best Solution

Posted On May 5, 2015 by

Boats in a marina. Credit / iStockphoto

On April 20, 2010, an explosion rocked the Deepwater Horizon oil rig off the coast of Louisiana, killing 11 workers and releasing an estimated 210 million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico – making Deepwater Horizon the largest marine oil spill in U.S. history. Five years later, scientists are still studying and assessing the short- and long-term effects of the BP oil disaster on the Gulf’s residents, wildlife and environment.

While almost everyone is familiar with the effects of large disasters such as Deepwater Horizon and the 1989 Exxon Valdez oil spill, many are not as familiar with the effects of smaller, more common spills. Every year Americans spill, throw away or dump out more than 30 times the oil that was spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster. A single quart of oil can create a two-acre oil slick on the water’s surface – approximately the size of three football fields!

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Keeping a Vessel Shipshape Keeps it Seaworthy

Posted On April 23, 2015 by

One of the basic principles of good boating is ensuring that a vessel is seaworthy. An un-seaworthy vessel threatens passenger safety and also poses an environmental hazard. Neglected or unmaintained vessels are at greater risk of sinking and releasing fuel, oil, sewage and toxic chemicals into the water.

Proper vessel maintenance, repair and operation are critical components to keeping vessels shipshape. In the Good Mate program, vessel maintenance refers to surface cleaning, washing, waxing and other upkeep. Vessel repair is considered sanding, grinding, painting, repairing plastic and hull scrubbing.

Vessel maintenance includes keeping boats in good, safe operating condition, cleaning them regularly, replacing and properly recycling batteries, inspecting emergency flares yearly and regularly inspecting vessels for leaks. Sanding, cleaning, painting and degreasing boats can pose major threats to the water. Particles of dust and paint in the water can block life-giving sunlight and toxic substances from cleaners and anti-fouling compounds can sicken or kill marine life.

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Good Boating Practices Start with Good Mate

Posted On April 8, 2015 by

Spring has sprung – an indicator for millions of water lovers that boating season is fast approaching. While you’re dusting off your vessel for its return to the water, now is also a good time to brush up on good boating practices.

As a boater or marina operator, you’ve seen first hand how a wonderful boating experience can quickly take a bad turn when ocean trash damages a boat or the environment. You know how mishandling a boat can harm ecosystems, wildlife and water quality. Improper, irresponsible or neglectful vessel maintenance and poor refueling, repair and storage habits all present environmental risks. Reducing these risks not only helps preserve clean water and protect the animals that live in it, but also keeps boaters and their families safe – and could even save money.

Fortunately, Ocean Conservancy – working in collaboration with the U.S. Coast Guard, Coast Guard Auxiliary and Brunswick Public Foundation– created Good Mate, a public outreach program aimed at reducing and eliminating marine pollution and environmental degradation. It offers simple, easy-to-follow guidelines for green boating that the boating community can use and share.

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What’s Haunting Our Ocean?

Posted On October 27, 2014 by

Photo: Ocean Conservancy

What’s haunting our ocean? Ghost crabs or witch flounder? What about devil rays or goblin sharks? Sure, there are tons of monsters and ghouls hidden beneath the waves, but like in any scary movie, the most dangerous villains may be the least obvious.

Let’s take cigarette butts for example. When you think of the ocean, they’re probably not the first thing or even among the top ten things you think of. Yet, they’re the most common specter we find on our beaches year after year. In 2013, volunteers collected over 2 million cigarette butts.

Food wrappers are other trolls lurking around our beaches. International Coastal Cleanup volunteers removed more than 1.6 million of them last year alone.

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Will We See You Tomorrow at the 29th Annual International Coastal Cleanup

Posted On September 19, 2014 by

Photo: Ocean Conservancy

The 29th annual International Coastal Cleanup is tomorrow! I’m extremely excited to see the amazing impact volunteers will have – and I can only image all the weird items we’ll find on our beaches.

Marine debris isn’t an ocean problem – it’s a people problem. That means people are the solution. More than 648,000 volunteers cleaned almost 13,000 miles of beaches and shorelines last year alone. That massive effort collectively removed 12.3 million pounds of trash worldwide!

You can be part of this marine debris solution by joining us tomorrow! A great way to turn the tide on trash is to sign up to clean up your local beach, shoreline or park as part of this year’s International Coastal Cleanup. Preventing the trash we find on beaches and shorelines from ever entering the ocean isn’t the only way of making our seas trash free. However, it’s an important step to protecting endangered animals that are threatened by marine debris.

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Petition: Help Kids Protect the Ocean

Posted On September 9, 2014 by

Thanks to a group of fifth grade students who care passionately about the environment, Dunkin’ Donuts has agreed to stop using foam cups at all their store locations. These young students researched the problems associated with foam cups and were really upset to learn that foam products fragment into the ocean, where fish, sea turtles, or seabirds can mistakenly eat the plastic bits. Nearly 350,000 foam cups, plates and food containers were removed from beaches by volunteers during the 2013 International Coastal Cleanup alone.

The students launched a petition on Change.org asking Dunkin’ Donuts to stop using foam cups and have had an amazing show of public support more than 272,000 people signed on to their petition!

Ocean Conservancy wants to thank Dunkin’ Donuts for committing to making these changes. Dunkin’ Donuts has already launched in-store foam recycling pilot projects and are working to introduce an improved reusable cup program in the next 6-12 months.

Will you join us in applauding Dunkin’ Donuts for taking those steps towards improving their environmental footprint?

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