Ocean Currents » Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Tue, 23 Aug 2016 13:30:42 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 San Francisco Bans Polystyrene Foam http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/07/san-francisco-bans-polystyrene-foam/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/07/07/san-francisco-bans-polystyrene-foam/#comments Thu, 07 Jul 2016 17:30:38 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12400

Great news from the west coast! Last week, the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors unanimously passed a ban on the sale of polystyrene foam. Foam packing, cups and mooring buoys will be prohibited starting January 1, 2017. This is a major win for the health of our ocean and marine life!

As you may already know, the problems associated with expanded polystyrene (foam) products is that they often fragment into small pieces once in the ocean, where fish, sea turtles or seabirds can mistakenly eat the tiny plastic bits. Nearly 425,000 foam cups, plates and food containers were removed from beaches by volunteers during the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup alone. And even more astounding are the more than 950,000 pieces of foam volunteers found on beaches around the globe during the 2015 Cleanup.

The ban in San Francisco is another step towards trash free seas! We continue to see dirty beaches and debris floating on the ocean’s surface. That’s why my colleagues and I are committed to continuing to work to stop the flow of trash at the source, before it has a chance to reach the water to choke and entangle dolphins or endanger sea turtles, or ruin our beaches and depress our local economies.

Will you help to stop the flow of trash into the ocean? I have two quick ways that you can join us to help keep beaches and the ocean free of debris.

  1. Join a global movement to keep beaches, waterways and the ocean trash free. Head out to your favorite beach and use Ocean Conservancy’s brand-new app to easily record each item of trash you collect. Then share your effort with family and friends.
  2. Sign up to cleanup this September! For nearly three decades, volunteers with Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup® have picked up everything imaginable along the world’s shorelines: cigarette butts, food wrappers, abandoned fishing gear and even automobiles and kitchen appliances. Join us this September!

I applaud the San Francisco County Board of Supervisors for taking bold action to stem the tide of foam polluting our beaches and waterways. And, I applaud the many volunteers who come out daily, weekly or yearly to keep our beaches trash free. I hope to see you at a Cleanup in the near future!

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A Fashionable Way to Combat Ocean Plastic Pollution http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/08/a-fashionable-way-to-combat-ocean-plastic-pollution/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/06/08/a-fashionable-way-to-combat-ocean-plastic-pollution/#comments Wed, 08 Jun 2016 15:00:04 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12219

There’s no doubt about it: ocean plastic pollution is a big problem. An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flow from land into the ocean every year, meaning that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish! And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets—as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five mm) now circulate in the ocean.

Big problems call for creative solutions. To truly make an impact in the problem of ocean plastic pollution, we have to attack it from multiple directions. This includes minimizing the amount of plastic waste we create, managing our waste to prevent plastic pollution from leaking into the ocean and mitigating the existing marine debris through active cleanup and restoration efforts.

Ocean Conservancy has been fighting back against ocean plastic pollution for the past 30 years. Last year alone, more than 18 million pounds of trash—equivalent to the weight of over 100 Boeing 737s—was collected by nearly 800,000 volunteers during our 2015 International Coastal Cleanup.

Fortunately, we’re not the only ones worried about ocean plastic pollution. Socially conscious enterprises are developing innovative solutions to bring attention to this immense problem and create financial incentives for keeping plastic debris out of the ocean.

One standout is eyewear company Norton Point, which is launching a new line of sunglasses that will be made from ocean-bound plastics collected, in partnership with The Plastic Bank, from communities and beaches where plastic waste is overrunning local capacity to manage it. Creative efforts like this help bring attention to the growing problem of plastic debris while expanding the market for recycled plastics. With their new line, Norton Point is creating greater economic incentives to clean our beaches.

We’re happy to be Norton Point’s charitable partner for their Ocean Plastic Collection. Norton Point will reinvest 5% of net profits from this line back into improving global clean-up efforts and toward stemming the tide against ocean plastic.

Business models like this just go to show that there are many ways to join in the fight against ocean plastic pollution. Whether it’s skipping the straw, joining a local cleanup or buying a pair of recycled, ocean-plastic sunglasses; every sustainable choice helps move us towards a healthier, happier ocean.

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Standing Before the Senate to Address the Ocean Plastics Problem http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/17/standing-before-the-senate-to-address-the-ocean-plastics-problem/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/17/standing-before-the-senate-to-address-the-ocean-plastics-problem/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 15:25:15 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12073

Earlier today, I testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the problem of ocean plastics and how it negatively affects ocean animals. Ocean plastics are a problem that affects us all. From our fisheries to our beaches to our protected environments—ocean plastics are a cause of concern for all Americans.

The growing tide of ocean pollution is a problem for sea turtles that ingest plastic, sea birds that get tangled in fishing lines and marine mammals that wash ashore with belly’s full of trash.

I’m grateful to the Senate for passing the U.S. Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act of 2006, which authorized the creation of the Marine Debris Program (MDP) within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA MDP has been instrumental in informing and catalyzing marine debris research and solutions in the United States and abroad.

In order to stem the tide of ocean plastics, however, more action is required by Congress. In my testimony before the Senate, I urged Congress to:

  • Increase funding for independent research on ocean plastics; and
  • Identify opportunities to partner with industry for sustainable solutions.

I commend the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for having this public testimony and bringing sorely needed attention to this issue. We hope that this hearing will be just the beginning of concerted action against the problem of ocean plastics, and that together we can work toward a future of trash free seas.

Thank you to the more than 11,000 ocean advocates who joined Ocean Conservancy’s call to action—and sent in letters to their Senators. I was able to deliver YOUR letters to the Senate during my testimony. It was nice knowing that I wasn’t alone, but that all of you were standing with me as I testified before the Senate. Thank you!

Together, with scientists, governments, businesses and YOU—we can push for real solutions that help reduce marine debris and save countless animals that depend on a healthy ocean for their very survival.

 

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How Dangerous is Ocean Plastic? Insights From Global Experts on the Greatest Threat to Marine Wildlife http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/12/how-dangerous-is-ocean-plastic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/12/how-dangerous-is-ocean-plastic/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2016 20:00:53 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11233

By George H. Leonard, PhD and Nicholas J. Mallos MEM

Over the course of the 30-year history of the International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers have removed over 200 million items from beaches and waterways around the world.  The top-ten list of items removed includes items like plastics bottles, plastic bottle caps, aluminum cans, cigarette butts, derelict fishing gear and a range of disposable plastic goods and food packaging. The scientific literature is replete with anecdotal information of marine wildlife impacted by these marine debris items. Indeed, over 690 species (from the smallest of plankton to the largest of whales) have been documented to be negatively impacted by marine debris.

But until now, the consequence of different marine debris items to populations of these animals – and the mechanism by which they do so – has been far less clear. Experimentally testing the impact of plastic items to whole populations of marine wildlife is technically challenging (if not impossible) and for species that are of threatened or endangered status, legally prohibited as well as morally questionable. But we have just published a paper in Marine Policy along with our colleagues Drs. Chris Wilcox and Denise Hardesty at Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) in Australia that uses elicitation techniques to overcome these challenges. Our analysis provides key insights into the relative threat of different debris items to a healthy ocean that should provide additional impetus to decision makers to tackle this growing problem.

Elicitation is a widely used technique to rigorously quantify the professional judgement of a community of experts on a specific issue. It has been used to evaluate threats to endangered sea turtles as well as provide insights into coastal risk management under changing climate conditions. In today’s connected world, we used the worldwide web to reach out to a large number of experts around the world that had professional experience with marine debris, its interactions with marine wildlife, or had undertaken taxa-specific research on sea turtles, marine mammals, or seabirds. Using a detailed survey instrument, we asked them to use their professional judgement to estimate the likelihood that different taxa would encounter specific products in the ocean, estimate the severity of the impact of those encounters, and allocate this impact among three types of threats (entanglement, ingestion or chemical contamination). Applying a statistical model allowed us to rank order the relative impact of 20 different marine debris items on seabirds, marine mammals and sea turtles.

Our results are striking and provide key insights into policy needed to address impacts to wildlife.  Derelict fishing gear, including nets, fishing line, traps and buoys were found to pose the greatest overall threat to all types of marine wildlife, largely through entanglement. Given that fishing gear is purposefully designed to catch animals, this result isn’t surprising but it does suggest that focused attention is needed to reduce the threat of derelict fishing gear on marine species. The Global Ghost Gear Initiative is an innovative approach to confronting this problem and Ocean Conservancy is proud to be an active member of this effort.

Among the other items tested, plastic bags emerged as the next most impactful item for marine wildlife. Experts highlighted the tendency of animals like sea turtles to mistake them for food.  Disposable plastic bags have long met the ire of environmental activists and numerous efforts around the world have successfully banned them in some locales. In the United States, California became the first state to outright ban plastic bags. Our findings suggest that the policy attention plastic bags have received is scientifically warranted given the product’s large relative impact on ocean wildlife.  But other everyday items were near the top of the list. These include plastic utensils and balloons, the latter of which often have a length of twine attached which can entangle wildlife. Only non-plastic items were found at the bottom of the list.  These include glass bottles and paper bags, products that global experts ranked as relatively benign to seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals.

Our results, however, suggest something more than a product-by-product approach to reducing plastics impacts in the ocean is vitally needed. A whole host of products (from caps to foamed packaging to straws and stirrers) were found to have at least some population impact. Science published earlier this year showed that upwards of 8 million tons (nearly 17 billion pounds) of plastics may flow into the ocean each year. That staggering number, combined with our new results on the relative impact of these products, suggest that a mechanism to prevent the full suite of plastic items found in oceans and waterways from ever reaching these habitats in the first place is critical to protect the majority of marine wildlife from plastic contamination.  In short, we must attack the totality of plastics in the ocean if we truly hope to protect the ocean’s health.

Much like the findings from our study, no single entity can solve our ocean plastics problem alone. It requires collective action from individuals and NGOs, to governments and the private sector to stem the tide of plastics.

Our new paper shows just how important this will be to the wildlife that calls the ocean home.

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Victory! Microbeads Banned in the U.S. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/08/victory-microbeads-banned-in-the-u-s/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/08/victory-microbeads-banned-in-the-u-s/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2016 15:00:54 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11315

2016 has barely started, and we can already share a huge win for our ocean. Thanks to the support of ocean advocates like you, Congress has backed a bill banning the use of microbeads in personal care products. And just this week, President Obama signed this bill into law.

Microbeads might be tiny, but this legislation is huge. The new law means companies will phase out the sale of products containing microbeads over the next two years, and stop making personal care products with microbeads altogether by July 1, 2017.

These small plastic particles have been a staple ingredient in everyday products we use like body washes, facial scrubs and toothpastes. Since they’re too small to be filtered out by water treatment plants, they flow straight from our sinks to the ocean and into the mouths and gills of sea creatures around the world.

The ban on microbeads is a big step towards stopping plastics from entering our ocean.

This new legislation shows a growing bipartisan dedication of lawmakers to create a more sustainable ocean—a mission we can all get behind. We are proud of those who served as a voice for our ocean in Congress, and we hope this is just the start of more ocean legislation to come.

Let’s take this opportunity to thank our lawmakers for their support of this bill, and remind them how important it is to keep pushing for a healthier, more resilient ocean.

Thank you for your support. Here’s to many more ocean victories in 2016!

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In Peru, A Picture’s Worth a Thousand Pounds (of Trash) http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/22/in-peru-a-pictures-worth-a-thousand-pounds-of-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/22/in-peru-a-pictures-worth-a-thousand-pounds-of-trash/#comments Fri, 22 May 2015 12:00:50 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10213

I had the great fortune to head south of the equator last September for Ocean Conservancy’s 29th International Coastal Cleanup. VIDA Peru, Ocean Conservancy’s longtime Cleanup partner in Peru, invited me to participate in a weeklong series of events on ocean trash, culminating with one of their country’s signature Cleanup events at Marquez Beach. Having been my first time to Peru, and South America for that matter, I was uncertain of the beach and waterway conditions I’d find. Unfortunately, as I spoke more and more with folks from VIDA Peru in advance of the Cleanups, my expectations of clean beaches were quickly dispelled.

I asked Arturo Medina, President of VIDA Peru, what the major culprits were for ocean trash in Peru. He noted that “the waste infrastructure is drastically lacking in Peru to handle the increased waste flows. Ultimately, it all ends up in the rivers, on the beaches and flowing into the sea. Legal and illegal dumpsites located directly on the beaches are also a major issue, yielding steady streams of debris into the water.” I witnessed this first hand as one such site was visible on the beach as I sat on my surfboard offshore—dump truck after dump truck offloading rubbish onto the sand.

And while I thought I got a taste of the debris conditions on the beaches in downtown Lima, I was not prepared for what I encountered at the Marquez Beach Cleanup Beach. 50,000 residents live amongst the unacceptable conditions in Marquez, dealing with both debris flowing down the town’s river and the massive accumulations of trash on their beach. Ursula Carrascal, VIDA’s Cleanup Coordinator, explained to me that 30 years ago Marquez residents could clean their clothes and fish in the river. Today, no one would even think of doing such activities.

When the time finally came to roll up our sleeves and clean Marquez, the local community came out in force. Over the course of two hours, 300 volunteers under the direction of VIDA Peru, removed 26,000 pounds of trash from a half-mile stretch of beach. As on other beaches, plastics dominate the rocky shore but truly anything you can imagine can be found on Marquez:  syringes, toy soldiers and vials of blood were all among the items I picked up. In 2013, volunteers found an undetonated grenade on the same stretch where the children of Marquez play daily. And Marquez is just a microcosm of Peru’s countrywide Cleanup effort—in total, more than 18,000 volunteers removed 540,000 pounds of trash from their country’s beaches and waterways during the one-day effort

As I congratulated Ursula on a tremendous event, she tells me in a forlorn voice, “Thanks…but it will all be back in two weeks.” I turn my gaze to the ocean and see exactly what she’s referring to—with each crashing wave new accumulations of trash wash onto the rocky shore. And beyond the physical challenges presented by continuous debris accumulation, Ursula shares with me her frustration and concern for future generations in Peru:

“I’m just frustrated. Most of our children here in Lima have never seen a clean beach. How can we get children to care when a trashed beach is all they know. We need 2,000 people on every beach just to make a dent.”

The situation is not hopeless though. Through the tireless efforts of organizations like VIDA Peru, conditions are changing—slowly, but changing nevertheless. Over the past several years, businesses and residents in Lima have increasingly become aware of the importance of waste management and new recycling systems has yielded a significant reduction in the number of bottles and other recyclable plastics found in Lima and on nearby beaches.

As evident from my time in Peru, the problem in Marquez, and places like it around the world, isn’t as simple as people littering on the beach. It’s about the rivers and streams filled with trash that all funnel into our ocean.

The only way we can stop this vicious global cycle is to stop trash at its source. If we provide the means to establish locally appropriate waste management solutions in the places that need it most, we can stem the flow of plastics into the ocean, ensuring healthier communities and more resilient marine ecosystems.

And whether in Peru, the Philippines, or Pennsylvania, every kid deserves the right to play on clean beach.

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The 2014 International Coastal Cleanup Data Are In http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/19/the-2014-international-coastal-cleanup-data-are-in/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/19/the-2014-international-coastal-cleanup-data-are-in/#comments Tue, 19 May 2015 12:18:20 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10198

Another year, another incredible volunteer effort—I’m excited to share with you today the findings from last year’s International Coastal Cleanup. In 2014, more than 560,000 people picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash along nearly 13,000 miles of coastlines. Thank you to all the volunteers, Coordinators and partners who participated and devoted countless hours and resources!

Last year’s Cleanup had the largest weight of trash collected during any Ocean Conservancy Cleanup since its inception 29 years ago. Volunteers from 91 countries gathered detailed information from their Cleanups to provide a snapshot of the most persistent forms of trash found along the beaches and waterways that’s impacting our ocean.

This data represents what was found at the 29th Cleanup – each and every year hundreds of thousands of volunteers step up to meet the challenge and help clean up the beaches and waterways in their communities. There’s no doubt in my mind – as the Cleanup report will show you – the unparalleled effort of volunteers around the world results in cleaner beaches, rivers and lakes for all to enjoy.

In order to truly achieve a world with trash free seas though, Ocean Conservancy is expanding its work beyond just Cleanups. We’re working with corporations, scientists, government and other nonprofit organizations to stop the flow of trash at the source, before it has a chance to reach the ocean to entangle dolphins or endanger sea turtles, or ruin our beaches and depress local economies. Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance is one such example, working to identify ways to augment waste collection and management in countries where plastic inputs into the ocean are currently greatest. With improved waste collection comes improved health and sanitation that benefits everyone – and the ocean.

Trash jeopardizes the health of the ocean, coastline, economy and people. It’s in our ocean and waterways and on our beaches—but, it is entirely preventable.

A recent publication in the journal Science shows that approximately eight million metric tons of plastic are entering our ocean annually. We know this input of unnatural material into the ocean is detrimental to wildlife and habitats – animals ingest it and can get entangled in it; it litters our beaches and waterways; and costs communities hundreds of millions of dollars.

If we take action now though, we can stem this tide of plastic pollution for future generations. There is no silver bullet. Everyone is part of the solution:  industry, governments, and other NGOs. And the first step is bringing the most influential players to the table, which is exactly what Ocean Conservancy is doing.

The American Chemistry Council represents some of the world’s largest producers of plastic. We’d like them to acknowledge that plastic in the ocean is a BIG problem AND agree to come to the table with Ocean Conservancy and other industry leaders to engage in an open dialog to pursue real solutions for preventing plastics from reaching the ocean.

Take Action Now: Tell the American Chemistry Council to be part of the solution.

I’m hopeful that together, we can make a difference!

And, don’t forget about this year’s Cleanup! Please mark you calendars and save the date. We’d love it if you could join us for the 2015 Cleanup on September 19. We need more volunteers than ever to join our movement and make a bigger difference.

Here are five things you can do:

    • Be a part of the next International Coastal Cleanup, scheduled for September 19. www.signuptocleanup.org
    • Reduce your purchases of single-use disposable goods. Going reusable ensures throwaway plastics never have the chance to make it to beaches, waterways, or the ocean.
    • Take action and tell the American Chemistry Council to be part of the solution.
    • Check out our Cleanup report!
    • And, really check out the infographics from our Cleanup report and share them with your friends on social media.
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