The Blog Aquatic » Green Tips News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:44:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Vote for Louisiana Cleanup Volunteer to Win Cox Conserves Heroes Award! Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:20:24 +0000 Rachel Guillory

We are so excited that Benjamin Goliwas, a long-time volunteer who helps coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup in Louisiana, has been selected as a finalist for the Louisiana Cox Conserves Heroes Awards. Ben, who goes by “The Admiral,” has organized cleanups around Louisiana for years, and his hard work was crucial in cleaning up the storm debris from Lake Pontchartrain after Hurricane Katrina in 2004.

“After Hurricane Katrina, the things we pulled out of the water and removed from our shores were amazing,” said Ben. “Not just tires, but the whole car; refrigerators still full; dining room tables with the silverware; and just about everything anybody can think of. Every year since, we’ve found something equally unusual, including vessels and pieces of the dock. It’s very dangerous for boaters in the marina.”

In the New Orleans area, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation plays a critical role in mobilizing volunteers, distributing supplies and collecting trash and data cards—not to mention organizing a big party on the lakefront afterward! Thanks to their dedication, thousands of Louisiana residents come together as a community every year to prevent trash from reaching the Gulf, where it poses a threat to marine wildlife and habitats, local economies and even human health.

The 2014 International Coastal Cleanup will be held on Saturday, September 20. Every year, nearly 650,000 volunteers around the world clean trash from beaches, lakes, rivers, streams and other waterways in more than 90 countries. Find a cleanup near you and join us on September 20!

Don’t forget to vote for Ben for the Cox Conserves Heroes Award. The winner receives $10,000 to donate to the nonprofit of their choice!

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The Five Myths (and Truths) About Plastic Pollution in Our Ocean Thu, 17 Jul 2014 18:00:39 +0000 Nick Mallos

Photo by John Kieser

As the Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Program, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people who care about the ocean and are making a difference for the communities that depend on it. However, I’m always surprised by the number of misconceptions about ocean plastics.

With many people visiting the beach this summer, not to mention all the coverage that ocean plastics has received recently, it’s a great opportunity to clear up some of these myths:

  1. Myth: There are floating islands of plastics in every ocean.
    Fact: Only a small percentage of ocean plastics float at the sea surface.Most plastics are dispersed throughout the water column, resting on the seafloor, trapped in Arctic ice, or inside ocean animals. The plastic gyres you hear about in the news are primarily composed of tiny plastic particles that are the degraded fragments of their original form (i.e., bottles, containers, toys)—many are the size of a grain of rice. 
  2. Myth: Ocean plastic primarily comes from ocean dumping and industry, such as cruise ships or container ships. .
    Fact: Most of the plastics in the ocean come from items we use every day—bags, bottles, caps, food containers, etc. By limiting single-use plastics in our everyday lives and disposing of these items properly, we can reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean. 
  3. Myth: Ocean trash gyres, large areas of the ocean where currents concentrate trash, can simply be cleaned out of existence.
    Fact: While some surface trash can be cleaned, many plastics break down and become dispersed. Only a small percentage of total ocean plastics inputs rest at the surface. The rest is distributed throughout the ocean or winds up inside animals. We don’t have a realistic, efficient way to remove these plastics from the system (yet).
  4. Myth: Ocean plastics are just a trash problem.
    Fact: Plastic particles are now found inside animals and throughout the ocean food chain—from mussels to fish to turtles to whales. 
  5. Myth: There is one, simple solution capable of solving our ocean plastics problem.
    Fact: Bans, fees, recycling nor product redesign alone can fix this. The ultimate solution is a combination of all of these and more. The biggest impact will come from stopping the massive amounts of plastic litter before it travels over land, and into our waterways and ocean.

With all this in mind, you might be thinking—what can I do to make a difference? You can sign up to clean your local beach or waterway by joining Ocean Conservancy in the International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, September 20. You’ll be among hundreds of thousands of volunteers working towards a cleaner ocean.

Cleanups alone can’t solve this problem, but volunteers are instrumental in helping us assemble our Ocean Trash Index. This provides us with a snapshot of what’s trashing our ocean so we can work towards preventing the most abundant and problematic items of trash from reaching the water in the first place.

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Illinois Takes a Big Stand on Tiny Plastics Tue, 17 Jun 2014 15:10:38 +0000 Nick Mallos

© Peter Hoffman / Aurora Photos

Last week, Illinois Governor, Pat Quinn signed state-wide legislation banning the manufacture and sale of cosmetic products containing synthetic microbeads. This legislation made Illinois the first state to take action against the harmful plastics, which are used as exfoliants in many personal care products including soaps, toothpastes and cleansers.

Governor Quinn’s strong stance against microbeads in cosmetics has major implications for the health of our ocean. All too frequently, these plastic bits find their way into the ocean where they pollute the water and are accidentally ingested by fish. Banning their manufacture and sale brings us one step closer to the trash free seas (and lakes) we deserve.

The Illinois microbead-ban isn’t in full effect until 2019, though several companies are working to phase out the tiny plastic particles before then. Until that time, consumers wishing to purchase products without microbeads should avoid items containing “polyethylene” or “polypropylene” in the ingredients list.

Illinois’ legislation is part of a greater trend towards limiting our consumption of single-use plastics. Four other states are considering similar bills, and several other states and cities have successfully implemented bag-bans/bag-taxes.

These policies are important for helping to regulate how much plastic we use, and subsequently how much plastic ends up in the ocean. I’m thrilled to see leaders in public office taking a stand against ocean trash, and I look forward to seeing a future where less plastic enters our ocean.

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Keep Boating Practices Shipshape with Good Mate Thu, 20 Mar 2014 15:00:12 +0000 Sonya Besteiro

As much of the country shakes off the cold of winter, newly budding trees, blooming flowers and balmy temperatures all signal spring’s imminent arrival. The warmer weather also means that boating season is right around the corner.

Just in time, Ocean Conservancy has released its updated Good Mate Manual for green boating. So, while you’re getting your vessel shipshape for its return to the water, take a moment to ensure that your boating practices are in good order as well.

Boaters and marinas are in unique positions to stop trash and other pollution from entering the water. The Good Mate program offers informative and useful tips to help these important user groups be leaders in water protection.

The Good Mate Manual covers six key areas related to boating: oil and fuel, sewage pollution, vessel maintenance and repair, marine debris, stormwater runoff, and vessel operation. And it offers simple, sensible steps that boaters and marina staff can take to develop best boating practices.

You don’t have to wait for the final spring thaw to start incorporating these environmentally friendly management strategies into your operations. Here are five easy ways boaters can protect our ocean and waterways, starting today:

1. Be a leader in your community.

Talk about marine litter prevention with members of your boating community, from your neighbor in the next slip to boating clubs and marina managers.

2. Offer your time.

Volunteer in boat and marina cleanup programs, especially at sites only accessible by boat. And participate in Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup, the largest volunteer effort of its kind for the ocean.

3. Be prepared for accidents.

Accidents happen. Be prepared with absorbent pads to clean oil or fuel spills. Dish soap doesn’t work. It just causes those liquids to sink and contaminate the bottom.

4. Take it all back to shore.

Don’t allow cigarette butts to go overboard; small but significant, they are the most prevalent marine litter item found during the International Coastal Cleanup. Dispose of them properly onshore.

5. Set the pace.

Recycle everything you can, from beverage containers to propeller-snarling fishing line or plastic bags.

For more in-depth information on how to practice green boating, visit


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Helping Sea Turtles Never See Marine Debris Wed, 19 Mar 2014 17:48:55 +0000 Allison Schutes

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.


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(Re)using the Same Old Lines Sat, 08 Mar 2014 15:30:09 +0000 Sonya Besteiro

When nylon was created in 1938, few people realized the impact this new material would have on fishing. By the late 1950s, manufacturers were producing a single strand of monofilament plastic that would quickly become the most popular fishing line.

Unfortunately, the very properties that make monofilament line so beneficial for fishermen – durability, strength, clarity – can make it an environmental hazard.

Birds, fish and mammals are routinely tangled in discarded fishing line, which can injure or kill them. Derelict fishing line also puts people at risk, entangling beachgoers and divers and damaging boats or other equipment.

Proper disposal of old or damaged fishing line is vital to prevent these dangers. North Carolina Big Sweep’s (NC Big Sweep) monofilament fishing line recycling program encourages fishermen, boaters and marinas to recycle fishing line before it enters the environment.

“Recycling gives a second life to monofilament line, reduces problems with litter and earns positive publicity,” explains Judy Bolin, president of NC Big Sweep.

The NC Big Sweep monofilament recycling initiative began as a pilot project in 2004 with funding from the Southeast Atlantic Marine Debris Initiative and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Working with the North Carolina Clean Marina Program – a voluntary program that recognizes environmentally responsible marinas – Bolin serves as a conduit between marinas and monofilament recycling resources.

“The marinas are the ones who commit to recycle the monofilament line,” she says.

To participate, marinas must install special containers for patrons to safely store and discard unwanted fishing line. Marina staff monitor and maintain the containers and record the amount of fishing line being recycled. Bolin provides marina operators with an initial container and contact information for recycling centers.

Southport Marina joined the NC Big Sweep program in 2012. For marina manager Hank Whitley, the decision was easy. “As a certified Clean Marina, we are committed to doing our part to keep our environment clean and litter-free,” he explains.

Southport currently has three recycling containers and has collected a large amount of fishing line. With little to no maintenance and only weekly monitoring required, Whitley is pleased that the stations have been minimally invasive to marina operations.

“There is no logical reason for a marina not to join this program,” he states. “The benefits far outweigh the negatives.”

More than 100 marinas currently participate in the recycling program; Bolin would like to see that number grow. “Ideally, I would love to have all marinas involved,” she says. “For now, I’d like to get funding to add 50 more marinas to the project.”

Monofilament recycling is only one of many good boating practices boaters and marinas can implement. Ocean Conservancy’s Good Mate program provides simple, easy-to-follow guidelines for green boating. Visit for more information.



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One Endangered Species We’d All Like to See Go Extinct Fri, 28 Feb 2014 21:23:40 +0000 Nick Mallos

“THANK YOU.” For years, these infamous words have been seen all too frequently on the plastic bags found floating around pasture lands, city streets, beaches and in the ocean. The elusive plastic bag continues to be at the core of the ocean trash dialogue and California legislators will once again try to pass a statewide ban this year that would prohibit its distribution in the state–cleaner beaches and cityscapes being the primary justification. Last year, the attempt failed to pass by only a handful of votes.

People around the world are all too familiar with these items; volunteers for Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup have picked up more than 10 million plastic bags off beaches and other landscapes over the past three decades. In 2012 alone, the number was 1,019,902 to be precise. We know because we work with volunteers to count every last one. Ten million bags require more than 1,200 barrels of oil to produce. And once in the environment, a diverse array of animals, both in the ocean and on land, ingest these items with detrimental impacts on their health as a result.

Don’t get me wrong. Plastics are a remarkable material. They protect valuable products in transit, save thousands of lives in hospitals and provide safe access to food and water following natural disasters. But not all plastics are created equal. There are some applications–like plastic bags–where we must acknowledge that the negative impacts of their use far outweigh any benefits we accrue during their momentary use.

For those products for which suitable alternatives exist, they no longer need to be a part of our daily lives. Disposable grocery bags are one of them. And while some claim that bag alternatives are only “supposedly” reusable, I can personally attest to the durability of the “free” reusable bags I’ve been using for five years.

To meaningfully reduce the global input of plastic waste into the ocean each year, we need a much broader, more systemic approach than bans on single products. But to reiterate the words of state Sen. Alex Padilla, “We lived for thousands of years without single-use plastic bags. I think we will be just fine without them.”

I commend California and the many nongovernmental organizations that have worked tirelessly to eliminate a repeat offender on Ocean Conservancy’s Top 10 list. Their efforts mark an important step toward cleaner beaches and a cleaner ocean.

If the people of Bangladesh, Rwanda, Burma and the Ivory Coast can all survive without plastic bags, I’m confident Californians can as well.

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