Ocean Currents » Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 27 Feb 2015 16:41:20 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 What’s Haunting Our Ocean? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/27/whats-haunting-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/10/27/whats-haunting-our-ocean/#comments Mon, 27 Oct 2014 21:08:43 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9405

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.

Plastic beverage bottles are also regular beach phantoms. In 2013, we found more than 940,000 plastic bottles on local beaches and shorelines. You can put them to rest by drinking out of a reusable water bottle.

Don’t think the litter caused by the 940,000 plastic bottles is the end of their terror. Volunteers found more than 847,000 bottle caps that were beheaded from their bottles still on the beach. This is even scarier because bottles without their caps can be doomed to sink to the bottom of the sea where they’ll spend all eternity.

If you wanted a scarecrow on the beach, you’d be able to build him just with the plastic straws you find there. More than 555,000 were found on beaches and shorelines last year. We don’t need sage to banish straws from the beach though. If you skipped the straw every time you were at a sit down restaurant, you can help remove their presence from your beach.

Plastic grocery bags are common ghosts on the beach with more than 440,000 exorcised by International Coastal Cleanup volunteers last year. Once they enter the ocean, they can trick sea turtles into thinking they’re jellyfish, the sea turtle’s favorite meal. Sea turtles who swallow plastic bags can suffer from digestive problems or even death.

Ghoulish glass beverage bottles are big problems for beaches. More than 394,00 were collected last year alone.

Plastic grocery bags aren’t the only plastic bags haunting the beach. We found more than 368,000 other kinds of plastic bags creeping their away along the shoreline.

If you’re walking the beach, there’s a good chance a paper bag maybe stalking you. Howling winds can blow paper bags from far off and onto shorelines. Try to use a trashcan with a lid when throwing away easily blown away items.

Hundreds of thousands of beverage cans prowl beaches all over the world.

The sea monsters of folklore or even sharks with rows and rows of serrated teeth can’t make us scream in fright like these 10 things haunting our ocean and endangering marine life. Good thing we all have the power to stop these ocean threats.

Below is a map that shows which monsters are most commonly found on US beaches:

Take a deeper look into the cauldron and see which monsters haunt your local beach:

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Will We See You Tomorrow at the 29th Annual International Coastal Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/19/will-we-see-you-tomorrow-at-the-29th-annual-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/19/will-we-see-you-tomorrow-at-the-29th-annual-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:00:44 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9248

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.

You can also join the 25,000 people taking the Last Straw Challenge. Every time you’re at a sit down restaurant, tell your waiter to hold the straw. You can help prevent 5 million plastic straws from entering our ocean and landfills by not using a straw when you go out to eat.

Plastic pollution poses a significant threat. Plastics fragment in the ocean and become bite-sized pieces that marine life can accidentally consume. This can cause digestive problems for ocean animals and even death. Spending some time cleaning your beach can have an amazing impact on marine life like sea turtles and seals.

If you can’t join us tomorrow, it’s okay. Cleaning up beaches and shorelines isn’t just a one-day affair. The most important thing you can do when you go to the beach is to leave it just as you found it – or leave it in an even better condition for your next trip. Cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and straws all make the top 10 most collected items of trash we find during the International Coastal Cleanup. You can be an ocean champion every day by collecting any trash you find out of place.

If you’re at a Cleanup site tomorrow, we want to hear from you! Tweet us your ICC experience by using #2014CleanUp. If you find something weird, tweet or Instagram a picture of it using #WeirdFinds.

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Petition: Help Kids Protect the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/09/petition-help-kids-protect-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/09/petition-help-kids-protect-the-ocean/#comments Tue, 09 Sep 2014 12:05:06 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9194

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?

There’s just one more donut hole size ask we want to make of Dunkin’ — and that’s to commit to a timeline for phasing out polystyrene foam cups from their stores.

Let’s join together to sweeten the deal to truly help protect the environment that these students will grow up to take care of.

Kids don’t often have a big voice when it comes to policies but with a lot of passion and determination, these amazing young students have been able to have a big voice in support of a cleaner ocean.

Please join us today!

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Victory for Baby Sea Turtles http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/04/09/victory-for-baby-sea-turtles/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/04/09/victory-for-baby-sea-turtles/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 11:00:06 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8015

Photo: Ellen Splain

In December, we told you about the launch of an exciting new pilot program called Preserve the Spirit: The Sea Turtle Protection Partnership. The program helps endangered sea turtles to thrive in the Atlantic, around the coast of Florida and throughout the Gulf of Mexico.

During the four month pilot project, volunteers in Wrightsville, N.C. cataloged and removed trash from the beaches that serve as critical nesting habitat for sea turtles. Turtle volunteers removed a total of 7,209 items of trash across six sea turtle nesting zones. The information they collect helps us to better understand the threats faced by sea turtle hatchlings in order to help come up with solutions that will help them survive.

Thanks to the generosity of supporters like you, Preserve the Spirit: The Sea Turtle Protection Partnership has been a huge success. We are expanding the pilot program to include beaches in 5 more states. With more volunteers on more beaches, Ocean Conservancy can continue protecting sea turtles and fighting for trash free seas.

Thank you for making endangered sea turtles a priority. We couldn’t have done it without you.

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Helping Sea Turtles Never See Marine Debris http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/19/helping-sea-turtles-never-see-marine-debris/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/03/19/helping-sea-turtles-never-see-marine-debris/#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:48:55 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=7827

Let’s face it, sea turtles could use a helping hand.. Did you know that most species of sea turtles are listed as Endangered or Critically Endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN)? Marine debris is a major threat to sea turtle’s survival. Mistaking trash for food, sea turtles are known to eat plastics and other buoyant debris. Trash can also hinder sea turtles ability to swim, and they’re prone to getting entangled in abandoned lines and netting.[1]

Young sea turtles are especially vulnerable to marine debris. The turtle hatchlings quickly drift in the open sea where they mistake lines of floating debris for seaweed.[2]

Unfortunately, cleaning up debris throughout the entire ocean is an impractical task—there’s just too much of it! But, don’t despair; we have had success removing ocean debris on our beaches, where the sea turtles hatch from their eggs before crawling across the sand to the sea.

I’m sure you’ve seen trash on the beach. It’s not only unpleasant to the eye, but this waste poses a threat to sea turtles in their nesting habitats. Once a sea turtle hatches from its egg, it needs to reach the ocean as quick as possible—tiny sea turtles look like tasty treats to hungry predators!

In addition to trying to avoid predators, sea turtles also have to avoid the obstacle of marine debris – dodging plastic bags and crawling around bottle caps. If snagged, debris on the beach can entangle or trap emerging hatchlings, preventing them from ever reaching the sea.[3]Adult female turtles can also become trapped by beach debris during their attempts to lay a nest, which increases the difficulty of the already arduous nesting process.[4]

A ray of hope for sea turtles—citizen science has emerged as a vital way to protect our environment and ocean. Volunteers, also known as citizen scientists, have been collecting marine debris data for 28 years as part of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup. Likewise, sea turtle volunteers perform an array of data collection services that directly aid sea turtle conservation, including beach patrols to check for signs of nesting activity, marking new nests and calculating hatch success rate.

[2] http://www.int-res.com/abstracts/meps/v463/p1-22/
[3] http://www.widecast.org/Resources/Docs/Choi_and_Eckert_2009_Safeguarding_Sea_Turtle_Nesting_Beaches.pdf
[4] http://pinnacle.allenpress.com/doi/abs/10.2744/CCB-0899.1?journalCode=ccab

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Gulf of Maine Cleanups Show Ocean Trash Is Global Problem With Local Impacts, Solutions http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/28/gulf-of-maine-cleanups-show-ocean-trash-is-global-problem-with-local-impacts-solutions/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/28/gulf-of-maine-cleanups-show-ocean-trash-is-global-problem-with-local-impacts-solutions/#comments Wed, 28 Aug 2013 21:50:18 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6565 Scientist aboard American Promise empties a net full of marine debris

Photo: Allison Schutes / Ocean Conservancy

200 miles, 7 beaches, 4 islands and over 7,500 pieces of trash: These numbers can be used to describe my time with Rozalia Project in the Gulf of Maine. But they don’t tell the whole story. Instead “inspiring” seems to capture most of my emotions.

Incredible scenery and wildlife served as the backdrop for the long days we spent collecting and removing trash while living aboard American Promise. Not only were we surrounded by a large pod of Atlantic white-sided dolphins as we sailed south from Hurricane Island, but we also had a finback whale come within 5 meters of the boat at sunset. We saw the spouts of another whale in the moonlight reflecting off the ocean, and we observed harbor porpoises and seals, a pair of bald eagles and even an ocean sunfish, or Mola mola, in Gosport Harbor.

Our crew of 10—eight people and two dogs—were united with one goal: to remove as much trash from the shoreline and ocean surface as possible while recording data about each and every item we removed. Sailing from Bar Harbor to Kittery, Maine, we conducted seven shoreline cleanups on four different islands, and aboard American Promise, we performed three Neuston net tows and multiple dip-net sessions—all resulting in the collection of a lot of trash.

Despite traveling to several remote islands off Maine’s rocky coast, we found many of the same items that top our list during the International Coastal Cleanup every year. Items like food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, foam cups and plates, and bottle caps were prevalent on almost every cleanup conducted while sailing through the Gulf of Maine.

These results are not incredibly surprising because we know that trash travels. Whether carried by the wind, current or human hands, everyday trash is able to make its way to even the most remote of places. For example, I pulled a food wrapper, a cigarette butt and a strap for sunglasses out of the water while sailing 50 miles off the coast of Portland, Maine.

Yet during this journey, single use plastic items were not our biggest finds. Fishing gear, including rope, monofilament line, fishing buoys, pots and traps, and lobster claw bands topped our list of items collected through the entire journey. We even found lobster bands, bleach and beverage bottles with French labels and markings, indicating these items may have started their journey in Canada.

All of these data are further indicative that ocean trash is a global problem with local impacts and local solutions. We all have a role to play in combating ocean trash, and joining us for the 28th International Coastal Cleanup is a great place to start.

Want to get started before the Cleanup? Take the pledge to help turn the tide on ocean trash.

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Setting Sail to Search for Marine Debris in the Gulf of Maine http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/14/setting-sail-to-search-for-marine-debris-in-the-gulf-of-maine/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2013/08/14/setting-sail-to-search-for-marine-debris-in-the-gulf-of-maine/#comments Wed, 14 Aug 2013 22:10:09 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=6521 American Promise sailboat

Photo: Rozalia Project

This week, I’m sailing with Rozalia Project as a guest scientist onboard American Promise. I joined the crew in Bar Harbor, Maine, and I’m spending seven days sailing south through the Gulf of Maine with our journey concluding at the ship’s home port of Kittery, Maine.

My home away from home is Rozalia Project’s “mother ship,” American Promise. Not originally meant to be a garbage-hunter, American Promise has a storied past. She was designed by America’s Cup champion Ted Hood to sail around the world in record time. From November 1985 to April 1986, American Promise did just that when Dodge Morgan became the first American to sail around the world alone in record-breaking time.

One of the main goals of this sail will be to remove as much trash from the water as possible. Much of our work regarding marine debris is centered around the items found along our coastlines and floating on the surface of coastal and inland waterways. However, we know marine debris comes in all shapes and sizes and is present throughout the water column.

In addition to using nets to gather debris, the Rozalia Project team is also equipped with two remotely operated vehicles that are able to reach depths of up to 1,000 feet. The ROVs will enable us to reach debris otherwise inaccessible to humans due to the depth, pressure or water temperature. The ROVs also allow for zero-impact trash removal, ensuring debris doesn’t drag along the seafloor or have an effect on marine life.

Removing trash from the water isn’t our only task. We will also be conducting beach cleanups on remote islands in the Gulf of Maine. Despite their location and the fact that the islands are relatively uninhabited, I expect to find many of the same trash items that we find during the annual International Coastal Cleanup.

How is that possible? Trash travels, and plastic items such as bottle caps, food wrappers and bags are easily carried by wind or storm water into local waterways and eventually to the ocean.

Throughout this entire journey, I will be collecting data on each item we collect, trying to find out more about that item and where it is from, and then hypothesizing on how exactly it made its way to the Gulf of Maine.

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