The Blog Aquatic » Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 28 Aug 2014 17:32:30 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Three Things You Can Do Online to Save Paper http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/10/26/three-things-you-can-do-online-to-save-paper/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/10/26/three-things-you-can-do-online-to-save-paper/#comments Fri, 26 Oct 2012 15:00:43 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2672

What if everyone reduced their mail just a little? Credit: Ed Siasoco’s flickr stream.

Paper has been integral to human culture since its invention. But today, with convenient and eco-friendly digital options, we shouldn’t take it for granted.

Reducing paper use is good for the environment, including our ocean. Using less paper

It’s daunting to stop and notice just how much trash we each generate every day—but heartening when you can make a few simply changes in how you do things and instantly see results. Take your mailbox, for instance.

With just three online choices, you can reduce the amount of paper arriving in it—and going out—by pounds a year, and maybe even inspire friends and family to follow suit.

Sign up for e-bills—receive and pay them online
When you add up how many bills (and envelopes) you get each month, you may be surprised. A typical list might include half a dozen or more monthly envelopes filled with paper:

  • mortgage or rent
  • phone
  • cable
  •  credit card(s)
  • electricity
  • gas
  • water

Double that for each bill you send back out with payment in a stamped envelope. Now multiply that number by thousands of people, and the paper savings are obvious. Setting up e-bills through the payee and your bank is easy and convenient. Added bonus: remember to sign up for e-reminders and you’ll always pay on time!

Send e-cards and e-vites
If you haven’t gotten in the habit, try it—and maybe the folks you send them to will return the favor and correspond with you without using paper in return.

Embrace e-commerce, echew cataloges
Pounds and pounds of catalogues, pages and pages of paper. Going online to browse is just as easy as leafing through a cataloge, and so much more ocean friendly!

If you want to stop receiving one particular catalogue, write directly to the company. To cover many bases, send an email to optout@abacus-us.com or check out Catalog Choice.

Three areas of change. It’s really that simple to make a visible difference for the ocean. Try it and see for yourself, then offer encouraging words to others—paper-free, of course, in the comments section below.

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5 Questions with International Coastal Cleanup Coordinator Hilberto Riverol of Belize http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/15/5-questions-with-international-coastal-cleanup-coordinator-hilberto-riverol-of-belize/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/15/5-questions-with-international-coastal-cleanup-coordinator-hilberto-riverol-of-belize/#comments Sat, 15 Sep 2012 16:00:38 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2749

Hilberto Riverol of The Scout Association of Belize has coordinated the International Coastal Cleanup for his country over the past 20 years, teaching scouts how they can help keep the ocean clean and healthy. Credit: John Carrillo.

Since 1911,  The Scout Association of Belize has taught children to protect and care for the environment on a daily basis. As it happens, their small Central American country on the Caribbean is a rugged place of great natural beauty. Coastal waters host extraordinary marine life, especially along the world’s second largest barrier reef, a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

So back in 1992 when Hilberto Riverol, national scout executive with the association, heard that the Ramada Hotel in Belize City was gathering volunteers for the country’s first International Coastal Cleanup, he signed up.  Some 600 participants including the scouts removed more than three tons of trash from approximately 18 miles of the coast.

The next year—and every year since—the association has embraced the role of organizing the event under Hilberto’s devoted leadership as Belize coordinator. We asked him to share his perspective on 20 years of Cleanup events.

1. What drew the Scout Association of Belize to participate in the Cleanup?

Since our founding, scouts have made a significant contribution to environmental causes.

Scouts learn firsthand what’s trashing the ocean when they record everything they find during the International Coastal Cleanup. Credit: Jose Riverol.

Participating in the Cleanup, these boys and girls have learned that there are many problems affecting marine life. Gathering data makes scouts even more aware of the importance of keeping our shoreline clean. They see the danger trash causes when carelessly disposed of in our ocean.

2. What changes and growth have you seen over 20 years?

From a small group of volunteers back in 1990, the Cleanup in Belize has grown over the years. Support from the business community has been consistent. The donation of garbage bags, gloves, rakes, promotional material and radio and television advertisements goes a long way and is very important in helping to cover the overall cost of organizing and holding the event.

The volunteers, who come from all walks of life, seem to be more aware of problems posed by marine debris; as a result, there is a stronger desire to get involved in the Cleanup. (There has also been an increase in recycling in Belize, particularly plastic, paper and glass bottles).

Now we have the participation of many youth and environmental groups, as well as secondary school students. In fact, one secondary school in Belize City makes it mandatory that the entire school of 400+ students must participate each year. The data they collect form part of their school curriculum.

3. Do you have a favorite story from the Cleanup?

No, because each year of organizing and participating in the Cleanup is a different experience. We find everything from money and condoms to dead fish and sea creatures trapped in nets. The latter is what motivates the hundreds of volunteers to come out year after year.

4. What inspires you to support the Cleanup year after year?

If you can make a change, no matter how small it may be, to protect marine life and have cleaner beaches for everyone to enjoy, this is the motive to keep the International Coastal Cleanup alive for years to come.

My favorite quote is from the founder of the scout movement, Lord Baden-Powell:

“Most of us who have been sowing the seed will not, in the nature of things, be here to see the harvest; but we may well feel thankful, indeed jubilant, that our crop is already so well advanced…”

5. What has impressed you most about the International Coastal Cleanup experience?

I believe that the International Coastal Cleanup is of great value to me—and to the thousands of volunteers who have participated over the years—because it demonstrates what can be accomplished by giving just a few hours one day each year.

It gives us all the opportunity to take back from our environment and nature what has been carelessly put there. And it fills us all with pride knowing that we indeed care for and look after nature, particularly marine life and our ocean. The satisfaction of knowing that so many people care for our ocean is engraved deeply in my heart.

Did you participate in a Cleanup event today? Share your stories in the comments section! And remember, it’s never too late to head outside and clean up trash in your neighborhood!

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Saving the Ocean One Cleanup—and One Jar of Pickles—at a Time http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/14/saving-the-ocean-one-cleanup-and-one-jar-of-pickles-at-a-time/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/14/saving-the-ocean-one-cleanup-and-one-jar-of-pickles-at-a-time/#comments Fri, 14 Sep 2012 14:00:00 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2562

Nicholas used a tasty family recipe to raise money for the ocean.
Credit: Courtesy Nicholas Wheeler.

Nicholas Wheeler of Hilton Head Island, South Carolina, has been busy this summer canning some seventy jars of pickles. What do pickles have to do with the ocean?

The 14-year-old is quick to draw a direct link. Among the weirdest things he’s found during beach cleanups was a full jar of pickles that had never been opened. Besides, they’re one of his favorite things to munch on.

“My mom’s grandmother had a pickle recipe,” he says. “I wanted to try it out because I love pickles. I’m going to sell them and give the money to Ocean Conservancy because ever since I was little, I’ve loved the ocean.”

Nicholas enjoying the water he works to protect.

Nicholas has set his sights on becoming a marine biologist, and is accumulating knowledge about all-things-ocean while volunteering two hours a day year-round at the Coastal Discovery Museum.

This go-getter is not only raising funds for the ocean with thanks to hard work in the kitchen and that family recipe, he’s also donating his time along the Atlantic Ocean shores of his island home. He caught beach-cleanup fever in 2011, when he organized and led not one, not two, but six local events.

It all started because his mom, a P.E. teacher, wanted some of her students to do a service project. There was no one to lead it, so Nicholas figured he’d step up.

“The cleanup was so cool, I decided to start my own organization,” he explains. Kids Helping Kids Help the Environment matches middle and high school students with elementary school kids for mentoring and service projects. The mission is to spark a love of the environment and community service.

When it comes to cleanups, Nicholas goes the extra mile. He rounds up volunteers and gathers bags and gloves, plus a scale to weigh all the trash. He’s even lined up a radio station to cover the event he’s planned as part of the International Coastal Cleanup on September 15th at Mitchellville State Park.

He’ll be teaching kids of all ages to become recycling ninjas by handing out Ocean Conservancy’s wallet-size recycling decoder and explaining how anyone can help make a clean ocean possible.

“I think a lot of kids don’t know much about the ocean so they don’t do anything— but once you talk to them and teach them how to help, they’re glad to,” says Nicholas.

“I like to thank everyone who has picked up even one piece of trash,” he adds. “Every piece helps, and I always tell kids you don’t have to go to a beach cleanup to make a difference. If you’re on a walk or a bike ride and you see trash, pick it up—because otherwise it could end up in the ocean.”

Wondering how you can support a clean, healthy ocean? Reduce the amount of trash in your daily life, recycle and sign up for the International Coastal Cleanup!

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Cartoonist Jim Toomey Explains How Trash Gets Into Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/13/cartoonist-jim-toomey-explains-how-trash-gets-into-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/13/cartoonist-jim-toomey-explains-how-trash-gets-into-our-ocean/#comments Thu, 13 Sep 2012 19:44:43 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2925

When I interviewed cartoonist Jim Toomey recently about his comic strip Sherman’s lagoon, which features Sherman the lovable great white shark, I discovered that his passion for conservation extends to every aspect of the ocean.

This week, as we look forward to Ocean Conservancy’s 27th International Coastal Cleanup this Saturday, September 15, we want to share his latest project, a two-minute video he’s produced with our long-time Cleanup partner, the United Nations Environment Programme, to tell people about ocean trash.

UNEP’s Regional Office for North America is producing a whole series of short videos to raise ocean awareness. Jim delivers these bite-size ocean lessons with humor, making them fun with the help of his colorful cartoon friends.

You’ll learn about how trash travels, and how it threatens wildlife and ocean health. You’ll also learn how you can help. Jim recommends joining cleanups—great timing, Jim!  We’d like to invite you to participate in the International Coastal Cleanup this Saturday, so go online and find an event near you.  

Information collected by volunteers during the International Coastal Cleanup helps identify just what’s trashing our ocean. For example, over the past 26 years International Coastal Cleanup volunteers have picked up 55 million cigarette butts. Stacked vertically, they’d make a tower as tall as 3,613 Empire State Buildings. And that’s just one item.

Clearly, cleaning up is not enough; we can all help prevent trash from reaching the water in the first place. Reduce your own trash through simple steps like remembering to take along reusuable shopping bags or coffee cups.

Ocean Conservancy is here to help, offering tips on our website, Facebook and Twitter. And we’re very excited to invite you to download our brand-new iPhone app Rippl, free on iTunes. Customize the app to match your goals and daily habits, and you’ll get tips and reminders to help keep our ocean clean and healthy.

Because, as Jim says, “We can all help solve the trash problem by making less of it.”

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Cleanups: Going after Clean Water Hook, Line and Sinker http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/12/cleanups-going-after-clean-water-hook-line-and-sinker/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/09/12/cleanups-going-after-clean-water-hook-line-and-sinker/#comments Wed, 12 Sep 2012 18:15:40 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2616

Fishing is fine on North Carolina’s Outer Banks. Credit: Catherine Fox

Fishing. It’s a cherished pastime that takes us away from the daily grind and instantly sets the mind at ease. “When the fish are biting, no problem in the world is big enough to be remembered,” said writer Orlando A. Battista.

Whether you love fishing or just enjoy the thrill of walking along a clean beach and watching wildlife, it’s important to understand that lost tackle can have serious consequences if we don’t clean it up.

Fishing gear lost in the water may not seem like a big deal compared with other types of trash, but when left behind inadvertently by fishermen whose lines break or snag, it’s a definite hazard:

The one (thing) that got away

The small nonprofit Partners for Clean Streams on the outskirts of Toledo, Ohio, participates in Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup each fall and also cleans local waterways in spring and summer.

It’s easy to see why line is a hazard to wildlife. Courtesy of Partners for Clean Streams.

Like Cleanup volunteers everywhere, they find huge amounts of fishing line, often hooks, jigs and lead sinkers attached. The organization recognized the importance of removing trash, including these items, to protect the aquatic environment—not to mention the local fishing experience.

“White bass and walleye run mid-April in the Maumee River where we work,” explained Ava Slotnick, outreach coordinator. “The river—the largest going into Lake Erie—is an important breeding ground.”

That geography is significant, says Ocean Conservancy Marine Debris Specialist Nicholas Mallos: “Lakes, rivers and streams may seem like isolated ecosystems, but it’s important to remember the ocean is downstream from all of us. Fishing gear that enters freshwater ecosystems can find its way into the ocean where it will persist for a very long time.”

Environment – and economy
Another key point is how important all these fish and fishermen are to local communities. “The fishing business here is a huge part of our economy,” Ava told me. “Anglers are out there in waders and boats, bumping elbows. A lot of commerce happens; you can imagine the hotel boom and full restaurants during fishing season.”

Recycling sinkers

Partners for Clean Streams started the Get the Lead Out! program eight years ago. Volunteers have collected more than 90 pounds of sinkers, impressive when you realize

Hooks and sinkers. Courtesy of Partners for Clean Streams.

many are BB-sized. “We resell the lead to Zap Lures in Sylvania,” said Slotnick. “They melt and reuse it, coating new sinkers to help keep lead from leaching out.”

What you can do
Fishing line is  the number-one wildlife entanglement item found during the International Coastal Cleanup. Fishing company Berkley has recycled more than 9 million miles worth of fishing line, and welcomes old line from anyone. They make it into new products like tackle boxes.

And the “Reel in and Recycle” program at BoatU.S. Foundation provides collection bins you can hang at piers and other fishing sites, plus a video on how to build your own.

A local Bass Pro Shops store mails the line in for Partners for Clean Streams, a budget-saver for the tiny nonprofit. It just goes to show that everyone—from nonprofits to volunteers from the community to businesses—has a role to play when it comes to protecting clean water.

The joy of cleanups
Ava Slotnick clearly loves cleanups, especially when she takes young people out on the river: “One teen got in the water and said, ‘This is the first time I’ve been in the Maumee River and I live ten minutes away!’ You could just tell by the look on his face that he thought it was so cool.”

“And that’s where the joy is, in making this transition for people from the notion ‘nature is out there and I can’t do much with it’ to really being out in the water and learning from it,” she says.

Last year, Partners for Clean Streams got 726 volunteers out for their Clean Your Streams event, part of the International Coastal Cleanup. In three hours they picked up 15,315 pounds of trash.

So what are you waiting for? Whether you’re inland or on the coast, sign up for the International Coastal Cleanup in September, connect with the water and have a great time making a difference!

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International Coastal Cleanup Coordinators Lead and Inspire Volunteers for Trash Free Seas http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/31/international-coastal-cleanup-coordinators-lead-and-inspire-volunteers-for-trash-free-seas/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/31/international-coastal-cleanup-coordinators-lead-and-inspire-volunteers-for-trash-free-seas/#comments Fri, 31 Aug 2012 14:27:50 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=547

Yoshiko Ohkura (center) of JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network) cleans a beach at Gamo Tidal Flat. Credit: Nick Mallos.

How much are some people willing to give to solve the problem of ocean trash? In the case of the amazing partners who organize the International Coastal Cleanup across entire countries and U.S. states, the answer is: everything they have.

We call them the “sea stars of the Cleanup.” Meet just two, Azusa Kojima and Yoshiko Ohkura from JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network).

Like their fellow coordinators around the world, they manage a host of responsibilities, including:

  • identifying sites on the water to be cleaned and overseeing those sites;
  • educating the public and rallying a volunteer network;
  • engaging reporters from radio, television, newspapers and online news sources;
  • arranging cleanup day logistics; and
  • ensuring that data collected by volunteers reaches Ocean Conservancy for publication in the annual Ocean Trash Index.

JEAN’s efforts on behalf of the Cleanup for more than 20 years are legion. Now the recognized marine debris leader in Japan, JEAN unified existing cleanup efforts and inspired more participation by educating the public about the dangers of ocean trash. From 800 volunteers at 80 sites in 1990, JEAN has grown the Cleanup exponentially, with more than 22,000 volunteers at 234 sites in the peak year to date.

And now JEAN is on the frontline addressing debris from the 2011 tsunami. Representatives from JEAN including Azusa and Yoshiko traveled to Oregon in July; they came to participate in a workshop to plan for the arrival of tsumani debris on the West Coast.

Additional International Coastal Cleanup coordinators attending included Patrick Chandler of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies; Eben Schwartz of the California Coastal Commission; Chris Woolaway (who collaborates with Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful and Friends of Honolulu Parks and Recreation);  Briana Goodwin of Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism (SOLVE); and Joan Hauser-Crowe of Oregon.

“We have engaged our network of Cleanup coordinators every year for the Cleanup, and once again, they are sharing their connections, research and ideas to help prepare for what may come,” says Dave Pittenger, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program.

It’s easy to see that the ripple effect carries the vision of trash free seas from coordinator to coordinator, and from lakes and rivers to the ocean’s shores. That’s why we salute each and every one of them.

International Coastal Cleanup Associate Director Sonya Besteiro (second from left) joined many Cleanup coordinators at the 5th International Marine Debris Conference including Kanyarat Kosavisutte, Thailand; Muntasir Mamun, Bangladesh; Katie Register, Virginia; and Liza Gonzalez, Nicaragua.

Sonya Besteiro, who works with coordinators year-round as associate director of the Cleanup, says, “The International Coastal Cleanup would never have grown into the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health without all the dedicated people who make it happen in their corner of the world.”

Learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at the Cleanup. And ask yourself, “How much am I willing to give?” Consider spending a few hours pitching in and picking up at an event near you!

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High-flying Balloons Pose a Definite Downside for Ocean Wildlife http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/29/high-flying-balloons-pose-a-definite-downside-for-ocean-wildlife/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2012/08/29/high-flying-balloons-pose-a-definite-downside-for-ocean-wildlife/#comments Wed, 29 Aug 2012 16:24:11 +0000 Catherine Fox http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=2499

Balloons that soar eventually fall, with serious impacts for wildlife.
Credit: Jerry Downs flickr stream

What’s more joyful than the sight of colorful balloons soaring up into the blue sky? People release festive bunches of them for lots of reasons, including to

  • celebrate birthdays, weddings and anniversaries
  • commemorate the passing of a loved one
  • inspire excitement at sporting events
  • announce the opening of a business or a super sales event

And sometimes they simply escape our grasp and go skyward.

What goes up must come down
Alas, balloons eventually fall back to Earth. That’s when the dark side of their existence begins. When balloons and their ribbons or strings fall or blow into the ocean and waterways, wildlife can suffer and die.

“Like many other forms of synthetic debris, balloons can resemble prey and pose a threat to all kinds  of marine organisms around the world, many of which are threatened or endangered,” says Ocean Conservancy Marine Debris Specialist Nicholas Mallos.

Trash in the water, including balloons, affects more than 260 species worldwide.
Animals, birds and fish get sick or choke when they eat balloon fragments and plastic valves and attachments.  Many others marine animals drown when they get entangled in trailing ribbon or string.

Pictures tell the grim story, along with scientific research like this:

Ocean Conservancy promotes solutions
Ocean Conservancy and volunteers all around the world have worked together to help identify this wildlife threat by tracking balloons (along with other ocean trash) for more than 25 years through the International Coastal Cleanup.

Last year alone, volunteers picked up 93,913 balloons littering waterways and the ocean. We’re proud of our long history of putting numbers like that to use promoting positive change for the sea.

For example, back in 1990, International Coastal Cleanup volunteers picked up an astounding 30 pounds of balloons along Virginia’s Assateague Island on the Atlantic Ocean on just one day.

Analysts found that the balloons—many imprinted with the names of businesses or events—came from 52 sources in six states.

Ocean Conservancy presented the data—and the balloons—to the Virginia Assembly, and in 1991 the state legislature passed a law prohibiting mass balloon releases. Today releasing big quantities of balloons is against the law in a number of places.

Enjoy balloons – but hold on
Like many of the volunteers who help run the International Coastal Cleanup, Virginia Coordinator Katie Register of Clean Virginia Waterways works hard to raise awareness about ocean trash— including balloons.

“Go ahead and celebrate—but now that you know the down side, just make sure balloons don’t become litter,” says Register. “There are easy solutions, like attaching weights to the ribbon to keep a balloon from going into the sky if a child lets go.”

As word spreads around the world, hopefully more people will choose to mark their celebrations in ways that don’t harm ocean life. In the United Kingdom, for example, International Coastal Cleanup Coordinator Lauren Davis works for the Marine Conservation Society, which runs an education program called “Don’t Let Go.”

“There are so many positive emotions attached to balloon releases that sometimes it’s hard to get people to understand,” says Register, who recommends options that allow for safe disposal of balloons—or better yet, celebratory actions that don’t generate any trash.

Here are a few:

  • Drop balloons downward in a festive cascade in gyms, churches or ballrooms.
  • Plant a tree.
  • Donate a book to the library.
  • Blow bubbles.

You can help protect wildlife and our ocean by growing the worldwide movement for trash free seas. Be mindful of ways you can properly dispose of trash in your daily life. Reduce as much as you can. And join like-minded ocean lovers around the world for the upcoming International Coastal Cleanup on September 15.

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