Ocean Currents » ICC http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Mon, 31 Aug 2015 22:39:52 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Plastics in Seabirds: A Pervasive and Growing Problem That Requires Global Action http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/31/plastics-in-seabirds-a-pervasive-and-growing-problem-that-requires-global-action/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/31/plastics-in-seabirds-a-pervasive-and-growing-problem-that-requires-global-action/#comments Mon, 31 Aug 2015 22:31:55 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10696

You have likely seen the pictures of albatross chicks chocking on plastics. These images are tough to look at and the death these birds suffer from ingesting plastics is gruesome and painful. Albatross consume a whole range of plastics that float in the ocean, from cigarette lighters, to toothbrushes to shards of plastics from a huge variety of other plastic products. As a conservation organization, Ocean Conservancy is deeply troubled by the impact of plastics on these magnificent birds. But how pervasive is this problem, really? A new paper in the peer-reviewed journal PNAS gives us a disturbing answer. It turns out plastics in seabirds is a very big deal. It is global, pervasive and increasing. And it has to be stopped.

The research published today was done by Drs. Chris Wilcox and Denise Hardesty from CSIRO in Australia and Dr. Erik van Sebille from Imperial College in London. It is the result of an independent scientific Working Group convened by Ocean Conservancy at the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara. This is the same group that recently demonstrated that 8 million tons (17 billion pounds) of plastics enters the ocean each year, much of it from Asia. This week’s publication shows the consequences of this plastic avalanche. Using global historical data from publications over the last few decades on the presence of plastics in the stomachs of 135 species of seabirds from all around the world, the authors show that plastic contamination is increasing and they predict that 99% of all seabird species will be eating plastic by 2050 unless something is done to stem the tide. Surprisingly, seabirds that may be most at risk of plastics are those that lived at the Southern Ocean boundary in the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand, far from the well-known “garbage patches at the center of the ocean’s gyres. While plastics are less abundant there compared to the gyres, this is where seabirds are most common – and thus at greatest risk of exposure to plastics. Contamination rates have increased from about 26% historically to approximately 65% today; if the trend continues, nearly all species of seabird – and almost 95% of all individuals – will be exposed to plastics by 2050. So this isn’t just about albatross; it’s about ALL seabirds including penguins, fulmars, auklets, prions, storm petrels and the many other species that spend the majority of their lives living over the ocean.

Read the entire article at National Geographic’s website.

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Join Us for the 30th Annual International Coastal Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/28/join-us-for-the-30th-annual-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/28/join-us-for-the-30th-annual-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Fri, 28 Aug 2015 12:57:51 +0000 Michelle Frey http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10687

The 30th Anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup is almost here! Help Ocean Conservancy to keep our beaches and waterways clean. Please join us at a cleanup near you.

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Get Ready for the 30th Anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/19/get-ready-for-the-30th-anniversary-of-the-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/08/19/get-ready-for-the-30th-anniversary-of-the-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Wed, 19 Aug 2015 19:09:37 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10662

Photo: Jackie Yeary/Ocean Conservancy

This year marks the 30th Anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup. It’s hard to believe that what began 30 years ago as a Cleanup on just a handful of beaches in Texas has grown to a yearly global Cleanup that involved thousands of volunteers, hundreds of countries and removes millions of pounds of trash from our coasts.

I’m proud to be part of the Ocean Conservancy team that has ensured that the Cleanup occurs year after year. Right now, we’re making sure our dedicated Coordinators all around the world have all the supplies and materials that they need to once again have a successful Cleanup.

Can I count on you to join us this year – it’s our 30th Anniversary after all.

Find a Cleanup near you!
We have an easy-to-use map where you can search the globe and find a beach Cleanup near you.

In last year’s Cleanup, more than 500,000 people picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash along nearly 13,000 miles of coastline around the world.

In the past 29 years of Cleanups:

  • More than 10 million volunteers that picked up more than 175 million pounds of trash from about 340,000 miles of shoreline.
  • Volunteers found 59 million cigarette butts, which, if stacked end to end would stretch from Washington, D.C. all the way to Miami.
  • Volunteers found more than 10 million plastic bags, which required 1,047 barrels of oil to produce.

As you can see, for 30 years the International Coastal Cleanup has been bringing people together to help protect the ocean… and, thanks to volunteers, we’ve been truly making a difference.  But, we can’t do it alone. We need YOU to join us this year. Please join a Cleanup near you.

 

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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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Future Leaders Fight for Trash Free Seas http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/24/future-leaders-fight-for-trash-free-seas/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/04/24/future-leaders-fight-for-trash-free-seas/#comments Fri, 24 Apr 2015 12:00:45 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10154

Each year Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup draws volunteers of all ages together to remove trash from the lakes, rivers and coastlines they love. As we approach the thirtieth Anniversary of this global trash-free-seas effort, and take a retrospective look at all the Cleanup has accomplished, we know that children and students continue to play a major role in its success.

In the past two years alone, over 151,000 youth across the globe have participated in an International Coastal Cleanup event.  For all volunteers, especially kids, a cleanup experience is also an educational one. Engaging the next generation on the impacts of ocean trash and, most importantly, how we all can prevent it is vital if we are to stop further flow of debris into the ocean.

The students from Park School, MA who got Dunkin’ Donuts to come to the table and reconsider their use of expanded polystyrene (EPS) cups are just one example of youth making change happen. After learning about the long-lasting affects that EPS has on the environment, they got to work immediately. Their change.org campaign received more than 280,000 signatures and the attention of Dunkin’ Donuts, who have now agreed to switch to environmentally friendly alternatives to serve their tasty beverages.

To inspire even more kids and students, Ocean Conservancy partnered with the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program in 2014 to create Talking Trash & Taking Action, a comprehensive educational program dedicated to the issue of ocean trash.

Since its launch, the Talking Trash program has found its way to educators throughout the country. Whether it’s a simple activity incorporated into a lesson on watersheds, or a whole day dedicated to figuring out what those “gyres of trash” are all about, Talking Trash is not only answering these questions but also making the deeper connection for youth that ocean trash is a problem that affects us all. In turn, we hope that youth are inspired to react to this issue, as the students at Park School did, and become future leaders in the fight for trash free seas.

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Trashing Paradise: The Case of the Philippines http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/16/trashing-paradise-the-case-of-the-philippines/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/16/trashing-paradise-the-case-of-the-philippines/#comments Mon, 16 Feb 2015 13:00:42 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9864

A guest blog by Andrew Wynne

An island archipelago nation laying in the western Pacific Ocean, the Philippines is commonly known for its idyllic beaches, rugged volcanic interior, routine natural disasters, and amicable people. But perhaps less known is the battle against solid waste that is currently enveloping the country. I spent two and a half years on the front lines of this battle as a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer and can attest to what a study published just last week in the respected journal Science found; the Philippines, along with a small number of other developing countries, is a major vector for plastics and other debris flowing into the global ocean.

With the vast majority of the population and economy tied to the coastline, managing solid waste is exasperating already stressed resources and forcing individuals into economically inefficient ways of making a living that strain the coastal environment. In addition, the Philippines’ location in the western Pacific Ocean likely leads to the transportation of waste around the globe, thereby affecting everyone from local barangays to American coastal cities.

The fundamental issue is how to solve this large and growing problem on land, and in doing so, protect the ocean from the harm that debris causes. The Philippine government has adopted a number of laws needed to help mitigate solid waste.  The problem is these laws and product bans don’t work well if community members don’t understand the consequences of their actions or know why these policies were designed. This lack of awareness about solid waste and its effects on local waterways and the ocean is ultimately crippling the Philippines’ national process to confront the problem. To stem it nationwide, a concerted effort is needed from the ground-up, one that actively involves community members in the discussion.

I recently returned from Tabaco City, Albay, a port city in Southern Luzon facing the Pacific, where I was a U.S. Peace Corps volunteer working on coastal resource management. After seeking input from local leaders and experts, I worked with Bicol University Tabaco Campus (BUTC) and Dean Plutomeo Nieves to develop and launch the Save the Rivers, Save the Sea Program.

Begun in January 2014, this three-year program has been using a participatory, community-based approach to address solid waste management, improve river water and habitat sustainability, and thereby protect our ocean. Local students and youth representatives are both the facilitators and target audience; the program seeks to empower them to initiate action, repair existing degradation, and be leaders in sustaining their local ecosystems for future generations.

Thus far, 36 BUTC students have facilitated a community needs assessment amongst almost 300 local households. The students interviewed residents and sought information related to solid waste management practices, community involvement, and river usage. River water quality testing and cleanup events are ongoing, and future program activities will include educational campaigns to inform and educate the community and the establishment of a Bantay Ilog, or “river watch team.”  With this groundwork in place, the Save the Rivers, Save the Sea Program hopes to facilitate the co-management efforts needed for future urban river sustainability and solid waste management in Tabaco City.

With proactive national and provincial policies, local awareness and activism, and financial resources to build a foundation of leadership, we can take the next step in stemming the flow of debris in the rivers and coastal environment of the Philippines.  This will be one small step in solving the global problem of plastics pollution in the ocean identified last week in Science. While it is troubling that the scientists found that the Philippines is a major source of ocean trash, efforts such as the Save the Rivers, Save the Sea Program can be a model for how other local communities can contribute to a global effort to protect the oceans from the threat of land-based debris.

About Andrew Wynne

Andrew Wynne is a graduate student in Environmental Studies at the University of Charleston, South Carolina and a Returned Peace Corps Volunteer. He served in the Philippines (2012-2014) as a Coastal Resource Management Advisor, and hopes to continue to educate and inspire others to create healthy coastal environments. A SCUBA diver and former college athlete, Andrew lives an active lifestyle fueled by travel and exploration, but never strays too far from the water.

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