The Blog Aquatic » international coastal cleanup 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 Plastics Are a Whale of a Problem for Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/26/plastics-are-a-whale-of-a-problem-for-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/26/plastics-are-a-whale-of-a-problem-for-our-ocean/#comments Wed, 27 Aug 2014 01:35:37 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9123

Photo: Eric Patey via Flickr Creative Commons

Sei whales are majestic animals and I’ve had the great fortune of witnessing their grace and splendor in the open ocean. Last week, however, a 45-foot sei whale washed up on the shores of the Elizabeth River in Virginia. An 11-foot bruise above her left jaw and two fractured vertebrae led the Virginia Aquarium Stranding Response Team to believe she was killed by blunt force trauma following a collision with a ship.

However, a necropsy revealed that the whale also had “a large sharp piece of rigid, black plastic” roughly the size of a standard index card lodged in her stomach.

In the days leading up to her death, the Virginia Aquarium team said that she “was thin and its movements were not indicative of a healthy whale.” They believe that the plastic in the whale’s stomach prevented her from feeding normally. This likely weakened the whale and could explain why she swam up the Elizabeth River.


Unfortunately we cannot dismiss this as a tragic, isolated incident. Plastic pollution in the marine environment has become a persistent and proliferating threat to our ocean. Plastics pose a great threat to the animals that live in and around the ocean, and our fight for a clean ocean is just as much for them as it is for us.

While there is no “catch all” solution for ocean trash, you can join the fight for a healthy ocean. This September, Ocean Conservancy is hosting its 29th annual International Coastal Cleanup. The Cleanup will not eradicate the perils of plastics in the ocean, but it can eliminate the chance that items littering our beaches and waterways ever find their way into our marine environment.

Join us, and you can help make a difference for our ocean.

 

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You’re Invited http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/25/youre-invited/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/08/25/youre-invited/#comments Mon, 25 Aug 2014 13:49:07 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9085

 

It’s time to make a difference!

On Saturday, September 20th, Ocean Conservancy is hosting the International Coastal Cleanup. Volunteers around the world are gathering to remove trash from their beaches and waterways. And you’re invited!

The Cleanup is so important for a healthy ocean. Last year, volunteers collected a record-breaking 13.6 million items of trash. With your help, we can collect even more.

But having more trash on our beaches to pick up is not a thing to celebrate. The sad truth is that our beaches and waterways are polluted and littered with trash. This summer as millions of Americans head to the beach, they’ll encounter plastic bottle caps, straws, cigarette butts and more.

That’s why we need to work together to stop the flow of trash before it has a chance to reach the water to choke and entangle dolphins, endanger sea turtles, ruin our beaches, and depress our local economies.

Tell us you’ll join us at this year’s International Coastal Clean Up.

Once you’ve registered, you’ll be directed to our Cleanup map, where you can find the details for a cleanup near you.

I can’t wait to see you at the International Coastal Cleanup this September!

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Ocean Conservancy Talks Trash… and Solutions http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/16/ocean-conservancy-talks-trash-and-solutions/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/16/ocean-conservancy-talks-trash-and-solutions/#comments Mon, 16 Jun 2014 15:23:46 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8554

Photo: Thomas Jones

Plastic in our ocean — I think we can all agree this isn’t a good combination. The question is what do we do about it? This year, Ocean Conservancy and our partners collected the largest amount of trash in the 28-year history of our International Coastal Cleanup. In that time, volunteers have removed more than 175 million pounds of trash, much of it plastic, from beaches and waterways around the world. From this first-hand experience, we know the problem is getting worse, and it goes deeper than you might think. The good news is this is a problem we can fix. It will require a new approach to how we deal with plastic pollution, but it is a global issue we can and must solve. Let’s consider the facts. In the next 25 years, ocean plastics could grow to 300-500 million tons, or about one pound of plastics for every two pounds of fish in the sea. So where does it all go? We can’t yet say for sure, but when plastic fragments into smaller, bite-sized pieces, we do know that it is being ingested by fish, sea turtles, marine mammals, and a host of other ocean creatures. Because plastic particles adsorb pollutants in concentrations that can be 100,000 to 1 million times greater than that found in surrounding seawater, the implications to the health of marine life are profound and deeply troubling.

Read more at the Huffington Post

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A One-Size-Fits-All Solution for the Ocean? http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/09/to-clean-or-not-to-clean-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/06/09/to-clean-or-not-to-clean-the-ocean/#comments Mon, 09 Jun 2014 23:00:17 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8457

**Update: June 10, 2014**
Ocean Conservancy has been a leader in beach cleanup efforts for nearly 30 years and we are dedicated to continuing these efforts. We applaud Boyan’s creativity and ideas for an ocean cleanup and recognize that he has conducted a feasibility study to further outline the ocean cleanup model. However, the majority of concerns previously voiced by ocean scientists, as well as Ocean Conservancy, regarding the ecological, economical and logistical components of the technology still remain unanswered. Cleanups are an important part of the solution, but Ocean Conservancy believes that in order to address the growing issue of plastic pollution in our ocean, we must also focus on preventing plastic from reaching the ocean in the first place. In addition to our Last Straw Challenge, we will be rolling out a series of efforts over the coming year that we hope you’ll participate in, including the International Coastal Cleanup September 20th. Thank you for your feedback, and we hope to see you all at this year’s cleanups! 

FACT:  There are plastics in the ocean.

FACT:  Plastics are not good for fish, turtles, birds or marine mammals.

FALSE:  Ocean cleanup is the solution.

Over the past year, much attention—some positive, some negative—has been given to Boyan Slat’s revolutionary concept and prototype for “The Ocean Cleanup.”  Yes, perhaps in theory—and artistically sketched blueprints—you can boom, suck and snag plastics floating at the ocean surface. But in practice, it just doesn’t make sense—ecologically, economically or logically.

It would be unfair for me to criticize Boyan’s concept without giving my own opinion, so here it is.

Cleanups are an invaluable education and outreach tool that provide people a tangible way to become aware and involved in the ocean plastics crisis. And no one is better suited to discuss the effectiveness of cleanups than Ocean Conservancy. For the past three decades, volunteers in our International Coastal Cleanup have removed more than 175 million pounds of trash—primarily plastics—from beaches and waterways around the globe. Each year however, there’s more trash to pick up—cleanups cure the symptoms of plastics pollution, not the disease itself.

Concepts of an ocean cleanup technology are no different. If tomorrow we could launch the array of 24 sifters outlined in Boyan’s proposal, it would do nothing to stop the continuous and increasing flow of plastics into the marine environment. Simply put, we’d increase the size of the bandage while our pipelines of plastics to the sea run unabated like the faulty valve in the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

From a technical perspective, our friends at Deep Sea News have done an exceptional job outlining the major unanswered technical questions associated with an ocean cleanup and its implications for marine organisms. To summarize the astute response of marine debris scientist, Dr. Miriam Goldstein:

  • Mooring fixed objects in the open ocean is improbable due to depths exceeding 4,000 meters;
  • The mixed layer in the open ocean can run 100-150 meters deep during high wind, rendering the collection boom useless; and
  • Large, durable floating “capture devices” are likely destined to be future marine debris that can entangle marine animals.

All of this is to say that “…I think it is highly unlikely that a [cleanup] array of this size and magnitude will ever be feasible.”

I am an optimist. And I applaud Boyan for his creativity and ingenuity. However, in our current climate we need to look upstream for solutions, not to the center of the gyres. Resin manufacturers and consumer product companies must adopt a business model based on the principles of a circular economy, where products do not become waste after consumer use, but rather valuable materials that are recycled and reused in product manufacturing. Similarly, we must look to developing nations where increasing populations and affluence are fueling a desire for the single use disposable plastics that have been a part of our society for decades, but where even the most basic of waste management infrastructure does not yet exist. Such an approach addresses the plastic pollution vector at both its entry and exit points in our consumer society. Simultaneously, we, as individuals, must continue to do our part by reducing our unnecessary consumption of disposable plastics and supporting smart public policies that eliminate the most threatening forms of plastic pollution altogether.

There are solutions to ocean plastics. Ocean cleanup is not the solution.

 

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What’s Needed to Put an End to Ocean Cleanups http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/21/whats-needed-to-put-an-end-to-ocean-cleanups/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/21/whats-needed-to-put-an-end-to-ocean-cleanups/#comments Wed, 21 May 2014 20:07:27 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8352

This week Ocean Conservancy is releasing its yearly data report highlighting the efforts of the nearly 650,000 dedicated volunteers who removed over 12 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways around the world during the recent International Coastal Cleanup. The release of these data is a great opportunity to celebrate the success of this event, but let’s also use this occasion to highlight the fact that much more needs to be done if society is ever going to rid the ocean of trash. It’s time to shift the emphasis from cleaning up to stopping trash from ever reaching our coasts and waterways in the first place.

Accomplishing trash free seas can’t be done by any one sector of society, but individuals must first embrace their responsibility to keep our ocean clean. Ocean Conservancy data show that personal behavior is behind much of the trash found on our coasts and in our oceans and waterways. Topping the list each September are cigarette butts, bottles, cans, caps, bags, food wrappers and cutlery, much of this left behind by careless beachgoers.  Strange finds, like mattresses, car parts and even a loaded handgun, show that many still view the natural world as an acceptable place to dump unwanted possessions. The vast amount of trash we collect each year highlights the need for a much greater respect of our natural places and all that they provide to our communities and economies.

Read more at National Geographic’s NewsWatch >>

 

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Join Us for an Ocean Google Hangout http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/20/join-us-for-an-ocean-google-hangout/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/20/join-us-for-an-ocean-google-hangout/#comments Tue, 20 May 2014 18:00:11 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8335

You’re invited! Join Ocean Conservancy for an online video conversation about trash and the ocean on May 21 at 2pm EST. Trash has infiltrated all reaches of our ocean, causing negative impacts on ocean life and coastal communities. The problem can seem overwhelming, but it’s preventable.

We’ll talk about the ‘just-released’ findings from Ocean Conservancy’s 2013 International Coastal Cleanup. And we’ll hear from a leading scientist and waste management expert about the impacts of trash on our ocean and where the solutions to this problem lie. You’ll learn what we’ve discovered, what it all means and what we can do next.

Ocean Conservancy’s chief scientist, George Leonard, will moderate our Google Hangout. I’m in good company with fellow-speakers Dr. Chelsea Rochman and Ted Siegler. Dr. Rochman is currently researching the fate and toxicity of plastic debris in freshwater and marine habitats, and Ted has 40 years of experience working on solid waste management issues.

 I really hope you can join us! The Google Hangout is an online video chat that is going to be informative and interactive. You can submit your questions ahead of time by tweeting with the hashtag #TrashFreeOC.

You won’t be able to RSVP if you don’t have a Google account. But don’t worry, you’ll still be able to attend!

I’ll ‘see’ you there.

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Deep-Sea Survey Reveals the Mysteries of the Deep: Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/09/deep-sea-survey-reveals-the-mysteries-of-the-deep-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/05/09/deep-sea-survey-reveals-the-mysteries-of-the-deep-trash/#comments Fri, 09 May 2014 14:53:24 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8228

Photo: Angel Valentin/Aurora Photos

Covering over 70 percent of our planet, the ocean is still largely unexplored. Sailors and explorers have been traversing the seven seas for centuries, but we’ve barely scratched the surface. In fact, more people have been to the moon than have visited the ocean’s abyss, which is why a recent scientific paper from the journal PLOS ONE is so  disconcerting.

In one of the largest scientific seafloor surveys to date, scientists used remotely-operated vehicles and trawl nets to examine 32 deep-sea sites in the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, as well as the Mediterranean Sea. The astonishing part—they found plastic bottles, fishing gear, and other man-made debris in all of them. Some of the debris items found had traveled more than 1,200 miles from the shore—most of it settling in remote, deep-sea caverns.

Most scientists who have worked in the deep-sea environment or on marine debris issues are not surprised by the findings presented in this paper. We have seen evidence of this problem time and time again on shorelines close to urban population centers as well as those located thousands of miles from coastal towns. What we have not seen however, is conclusive evidence of the ubiquity of plastics and debris on our ocean’s seafloor.

In a few weeks, Ocean Conservancy will release its 2013 Trash Free Seas data report. It contains all of the data collected by International Coastal Cleanup Volunteers around the world. For three decades, this information has highlighted the most persistent items of debris littering our beaches, waterways and the ocean. At a time when scientists are just beginning to understand the very real impacts plastic debris has on marine animals and habitats in coastal and shallow water ecosystems, we must now conjecture the potential harm these materials may pose to deep-sea environments. We should not and cannot wait to determine what these impacts may be; the time is now to take aggressive action on halting the flow of trash at its source.

And I am optimistic.

Solutions are at hand. If  we build on the actions of individuals, companies and elected officials, all that remains is simply the will to build a collective movement to make a lasting difference. Doing so will not be easy, but enhanced individual responsibility, new industry leadership, innovative science and smart public policy represent the comprehensive solution to the ongoing challenge of marine debris.

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