Ocean Currents » international coastal cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 19 Jun 2015 18:06:44 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Across the Gulf; Saving Sea Turtles in Tecolutla, Mexico http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/26/across-the-gulf-saving-sea-turtles-in-tecolutla-mexico/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/05/26/across-the-gulf-saving-sea-turtles-in-tecolutla-mexico/#comments Tue, 26 May 2015 19:35:11 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10258

Hello! My name is Jessica Miller. I am an undergraduate at the University of South Carolina, where I just completed my sophomore year. I am majoring in biology and I intend to eventually pursue a career in research. Growing up in a small town in South Carolina, I developed a deep interest in science and knew I wanted to do something with animals. This summer I am traveling to Mexico to participate in an amazing study abroad program that will help with the conservation of endangered Kemp’s Ridley sea turtles, as well as provide valuable information on the degree of marine debris found in the area.

On May 8th, I traveled to Mexico for the first time in my life. While many people travel to the country to explore the sites and relax on the beaches, my intentions are slightly different. I have an awesome opportunity to conduct research with several other students in my study abroad program. What exactly is it that we will be researching? Sea turtles, of course! More specifically, the primary focus of my voyage is the conservation of the Kemp’s Ridley sea turtle. These turtles are endangered and quite unique as well.

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are relatively small by sea turtle standards. They usually only grow to be about 3 feet long with a shell that is about 2 feet long. They are also one of the few sea turtles to nest during the day. Kemp’s ridley sea turtles also have a limited nesting habitat. They only nest along the Gulf of Mexico, which highlights one of the many reasons the Gulf is so important; and why the condition of its beaches is so important as home to a variety of marine organisms that do not exist anywhere else. More information on the Kemp’s ridley sea turtles, along with other work being done in Tecolutla, can be found at the Tecolutla Turtle Preservation Project.

A variety of anthropogenic factors impact Kemp’s – including major issues such as egg poaching oil spills, and incidental capture in fishing equipment. Egg poaching is very serious, because when extensive enough, it can wipe out generations because it is so easy for people to find turtle nests and take the unguarded eggs. Accidental capture by fishing boats is often caused by boats, particularly shrimping boats, drag large nets along the ocean floor. Sea turtles can unintentionally get caught and drown if they can’t escape.  Fortunately, modern regulations require U.S. shrimpers to use what are known as Turtle Excluder Devices (TEDs), which have significantly reduced turtle mortality in American waters.  However, regulations, implementation and enforcement are sometimes not as strong in other countries where turtles may feed or migrate through.

Our research is attempting to assess a variety of aspects of Kemp’s ridley sea turtles that will hopefully aid in the management and eventual recovery of the species.  One of the projects involves trying to tag every turtle that comes ashore to nest in a 10km stretch of beach in the southern Gulf of Mexico.  We hope to be able to use these tags to eventually answer questions about turtle nesting biology, number of turtles and nesting site fidelity at this beach.  When we tag a turtle we also take a small tissue sample that will be used, along with samples from other areas, to genetically analyze the population structure – do Kemp’s exist as one large mixed population or are there more than one smaller separate populations.  This information is obviously critical to properly conserving the species.

I also have my own project, with the help of the Ocean Conservancy.  As part of their International Coastal Cleanup we are initiating a project to try to quantify the amount of marine debris present on the beach. Most people are already aware that marine debris is a global issue that can be detrimental to ecosystems. However, it is easy to forget that the coastline and its beaches and estuaries are part of the marine environment, too – and just as heavily affected by drifting debris as the open ocean. The impact of all of this debris, most of which I have seen has been plastic, on various organisms is less clear.  There are a variety of ways one could use to try to quantify the debris on the beach but I have been using dune to water-line transects divided into one meter square sections.  We have set up these transects in several places and are in the process of trying to determine just how much debris there is.  The data I collect will be used to get a better indication of the condition of the beach in Tecolutla. Hopefully it will be used to identify major concerns to the beach’s well-being and provide information that can then be used to create solutions to those problems.

While I have been trying to get a feel for the amount of pollution, our Mexican colleagues, Vida Milenaria, work tirelessly to try to educate the public about the hazards of marine debris for sea turtles.  Everyday they give free talks to tourists about sea turtles in general, including their interactions with marine pollution. In addition to their work to educate they are the ones responsible for relocating and protecting nests throughout the nesting season. They have been protecting this beach for 40 years and are a valuable source of information for our work.

Before leaving, we are also going to conduct a beach cleanup. It is only a small and temporary fix to the issue of marine debris, but every little bit helps.

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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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Interview: Building an Ocean Cleanup Brigade in Bangladesh http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/11/interview-building-an-ocean-cleanup-brigade-in-bangladesh/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/02/11/interview-building-an-ocean-cleanup-brigade-in-bangladesh/#comments Wed, 11 Feb 2015 14:00:20 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9838

Ocean trash.  Marine debris. You’ve heard it’s a problem. An ever-increasing amount of plastic pollution is entering our ocean every day. Surprisingly, many countries around the world lack the most basic trash collection services. As incomes rise, people are able to afford more and more plastic goods. But in many countries, the ability to collect and manage waste isn’t growing at nearly the same rate. As a result more plastic is ending up on beaches, in rivers and eventually the ocean.

We’re lucky at Ocean Conservancy to have an incredible network of passionate and devoted coordinators and volunteers through our International Coastal Cleanup who work tirelessly to keep their local beaches and waterways free of harmful plastic debris. Just last week, I had the honor of interviewing our Bangladesh Country Coordinator, Muntasir Mamun, about the problems with marine debris and how the Cleanups in his country have been successfully recruiting more and more volunteers.

OC: Why are you so invested in our ocean’s health?

Muntasir: Bangladesh is the biggest delta on Earth and has one of the largest natural sandy sea beaches. Due to over population, Bangladesh is heavily threatened by the impact of trash. Moreover, thousands of rivers are going across my country and ending up being at the ocean. So, the trash being in the rivers (intentionally or unintentionally) are going to be in the ocean. Not only that, geographically Bangladesh is one of the most vulnerable countries from the impact of climate change.

OC: How did you first get started with the International Coastal Cleanup?

Muntasir: I heard about this program while I was attending an exchange program in Japan in 2005. One of the participants from the Philippines suggested that I become involved in Bangladesh since we have such a long coastal belt.

OC: What beaches have you helped clean up?

Muntasir: Cox’s Bazar and St. Martin’s Island

OC: Who did you work with during the Cleanup that inspired you?

Muntasir: I think the volunteers are the key inspiration factor for me.

OC: How has your Cleanup changed over the years?

Muntasir: When I first started this program in Bangladesh, 10 years ago, there were only four people involved. But now, it’s a program of more than thousands. Local government, corporations and educational institutions got involved in the program. The beach we used to see a long time ago, it’s cleaner than ever. The habit of littering was reduced and a number of trash bins have been installed.

OC: How would you describe your volunteers?

Muntasir: Volunteers are the heart of the International Coastal Cleanup. It’s the volunteers who keep the program running and successful.

OC: What’s the weirdest thing you’ve found during a Cleanup?

Muntasir: A huge abandoned fiberglass boat on the shore of St. Martin’s Island.

OC: Thanks for all your time, Muntasir, and for the tremendous effort you lead to keep the shores of Bangladesh free of trash!


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Overflowing Trash Cans Lead to an Overwhelmed Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/05/overflowing-trash-cans-lead-to-an-overwhelmed-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/01/05/overflowing-trash-cans-lead-to-an-overwhelmed-ocean/#comments Mon, 05 Jan 2015 13:45:27 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9676

Los Angeles is a city overflowing:  with culture, with movies and music, with people—and with trash. A recent internal report shed light on a big problem. Los Angeles has more trash than it can handle. Despite its size (nearly 500 square miles), the city only has approximately 700 public trash cans.

That’s correct:  700. One public trash can for every 5,548 people. That math simply does not work.

We often assume items we throw away end up properly discarded in landfills—and they often do.  But overflowing trash cans, insufficient recycling systems, or a simple lack of basic waste collection in many countries, including our own, results in plastics and other forms of trash “escaping” into the environment, ultimately ending up in rivers, lakes and the ocean.

Los Angeles is simply one example of the growing plastics pollution problem threatening our global ocean.

The explosive growth of plastics consumption over the next decade will largely take place in rapidly industrializing countries, which also have some of the lowest waste collection rates on the planet. This consumption/waste collection mismatch results in massive inputs of plastic into the ocean. Just last month, a study in PLOS ONE revealed that more than 5 trillion pieces of plastics litter the ocean surface, while a subsequent publication in Royal Society Open Science shows that an equal, if not greater amount, of tiny plastic fragments are littering the deep sea.

A new solution of scale is required. There are many excellent initiatives such as local bag bans, local bottle deposit laws, and Ocean Conservancy’s own International Coastal Cleanup; however, these efforts alone will not stop the global onslaught of plastics entering the ocean.  Industry simply cannot afford to push more plastic down the pipe without a solution. The escalation of this challenge, if left unaddressed, may create massive liabilities, challenge food security, and waste huge amounts of valuable material.

Ocean Conservancy has developed a plan—and industries are getting on board.

Through our Trash Free Seas Alliance®, we are working with industry, economists, waste experts, and other NGOs  to identify ways for communities to profitably gather, separate, sell and store plastic waste streams, thus reversing the tide of plastics entering the ocean—and also advance the health, economies and well-being of the communities served.

Plastics have done, and continue to do, much good for the world, but plastic producers and consumer goods companies have to be held responsible for the end of life impact plastics impart on our ocean. An economically viable and equitable solution can and must be crafted to confront this global problem.

Ocean Conservancy is committed to getting the job done. It is big, bold and ambitious, but absolutely imperative if we wish, someday, to truly celebrate trash free seas.

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Kids Show How to Fight (and Win!) Against Ocean Trash http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/11/13/kids-show-how-to-fight-and-win-against-ocean-trash/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/11/13/kids-show-how-to-fight-and-win-against-ocean-trash/#comments Thu, 13 Nov 2014 15:25:44 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9493

November 1 was a cold, dreary morning in Boston and when I arrived at Wollaston Beach to take part in a beach cleanup, the rain and wind grew more intense. I questioned whether we could even have a cleanup, but all doubt was swiftly wiped away when I met the staff and students from Park School.

I should have known that these fourth, fifth and now sixth graders, who successfully campaigned for Dunkin’ Donuts to stop using Styrofoam cups, weren’t going to let the weather get them down.  As part of their school’s Green Club, these kids are seriously passionate about the environment. When they learned that expanded polystyrene (EPS)—the material used in foam-style cups—virtually never breaks down in the environment and often winds up in our oceans, they decided to act.

Their petition on change.org landed them a meeting at Dunkin’ Donuts’ Corporate Headquarters where they expressed their concerns about the 1.7 billion coffees served a year in disposable EPS cups, which could have major consequences for the ocean. As a result of this and the 280,000-plus signatures the campaign has garnered, Dunkin’ agreed to switch to more environmentally-friendly alternatives to serve their tasty beverages.

Needless to say, I was thrilled to meet these students who are true ocean heroes that are tackling trash at the source, one item at a time. Their enthusiasm and dedication motivated our group to hit the beach in the rain and collect all the trash we could find. We found the regular trash culprits including cigarette butts, plastic bottle caps, and plastic pieces. The experience came full circle though when we found Dunkin’s iconic pink and orange straws, foam pieces and Dunkin’ Donuts cups in their entirety!

Chatting with the students and their teacher and club advisor Mr. Ted Wells, I learned that their advocacy efforts for the ocean and environment in general are far from over. While Dunkin’ Donuts won’t be completely EPS free by the students’ goal of Earth Day 2015, the Park School Green Club promises to see the effort through. And they are sure to be involved in many more environmental projects and campaigns to come.

After making a difference on the beach, we retreated indoors for some well-deserved hot cocoa.  The students and volunteers were pleased to enjoy their drinks in reusable Ocean Conservancy mugs, which were a thank you for their hard work and for being active ocean advocates. Besides, trash free champions would never want to drink their cocoa from disposable cups!


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