Ocean Currents » international coastal cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 12 Feb 2016 14:45:51 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 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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Entangled, Eaten, Contaminated http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/12/entangled-eaten-contaminated/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/12/entangled-eaten-contaminated/#comments Tue, 12 Jan 2016 20:00:22 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11230

A comprehensive assessment of trash on marine wildlife 

There is a vast sea of trash in our oceans. For the first time, we now have a comprehensive picture of the toll it is taking on seabirds, sea turtles and marine mammals.

A new study in Marine Policy by scientists at Ocean Conservancy and Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) mapped impacts ranging from entanglement, ingestion and chemical contamination of the 20 most commonly found ocean debris like fishing gear, balloons, plastic bottles and bags and a range of other plastic garbage found regularly in the ocean. Our research was based on elicitation, a widely-used technique to rigorously quantify the professional judgement of a community of experts, representing 19 fields of study.

The Results

  • Lost or abandoned fishing gear like nets, lines, traps and buoys pose the greatest overall threat to all types of marine wildlife, primarily through entanglement.
  • Consumer plastics were not far behind. Plastic bags emerged as the second most impactful item for marine wildlife. Plastic cutlery also was highly impactful. Experts highlighted the tendency of animals like sea turtles to mistake these items for food and eat them.
  • Paper bags and glass bottles were assessed to be the most benign marine debris.

Seeking Solutions

This study underscores the need to go beyond a product-by-product approach to reducing plastics impacts in the ocean. Consider the sheer volume of it—upwards of 8 million tons each year flow into the ocean according to a report from earlier this year.

The biggest takeaway from our report is that our strategies must encompass regional improvement in waste management systems and global changes in policy as well as local actions like changing consumer behavior and eliminating particularly problematic products. And much like the findings from our study, no single entity alone can solve our ocean plastics problem. It requires collective action from individuals and NGOs, to governments and the private sector to stem the tide of plastics from entering the ocean in the first place.

What We’re Doing

For the past three decades, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup has documented the most persistent and proliferating forms of ocean trash on beaches and in waterways around the world. Without fail, the most common items encountered year after year are those disposable plastics we use in our everyday lives—like plastic bags, beverage bottles and food wrappers.

We are working hard to solve this problem. We are a proud and active member of the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, an innovative approach to confronting the threat of derelict fishing gear on marine species.

And Ocean Conservancy is also leading a powerful alliance to unite industry, science and conservation leaders under a common goal for a healthy ocean free of trash. Members of the Trash Free Seas Alliance® are working together to confront plastic inputs from the regions that matter most while they seek to reduce and reinvent products and services that damage ocean wildlife or ecosystems.

We also work with people like you—ocean lovers who recognize the importance of keeping our oceans trash free. Your choices really do matter to the future of our ocean.

Want to take a deeper dive? Read more here.

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Celebrating a Big Year for the Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/30/celebrating-a-big-year-for-the-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/12/30/celebrating-a-big-year-for-the-ocean/#comments Wed, 30 Dec 2015 15:30:40 +0000 Janis Searles Jones http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11299

This has been a landmark year for the ocean. The tireless work of ocean advocates—like you—has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it. Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve had quite a busy year, and we’re proud to have played our part in working towards a better ocean.

Please join me in celebrating a few of the successes we’ve had over the past year:

We engaged communities to take action on ocean acidification.

Important species like oysters and crabs that fuel the nation’s seafood industry are at risk due to the increasing acidity of seawater. Ocean Conservancy’s Ocean Acidification team led the drive to introduce two new bipartisan federal bills to tackle this serious challenge, and we garnered support for additional federal funds for research and monitoring. We also co-authored papers in several science journals to raise awareness of this growing threat to coastal communities, and were pleased to see coastal states promoting legislation to combat this massive problem.

We made progress on smart ocean planning.

Our Ocean Planning program protects marine ecosystems while balancing ocean uses like shipping, fishing and recreation. Five years ago, ocean planning in the U.S. was a long-sought dream; today we are months away from ocean plans for the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic. We also celebrated construction of Deepwater Wind, the country’s first offshore wind farm located in Rhode Island, which we’ve showcased as a model of sustainable development, supported by fishermen and conservationists. We, along with industry and conservation partners, are working to make smart ocean planning the new status quo for how our ocean is managed and protected.

We helped keep risky offshore drilling out of the U.S. Arctic Ocean.

This year, President Obama protected nearly 10 million acres of important habitat off Alaska’s coast, Shell retreated from offshore oil exploration in the Chukchi Sea and the Administration cancelled two Arctic offshore lease sales. These decisions are huge victories for all of those—including Ocean Conservancy—that continually pressed for protections from risky development. Still, our work is not done. Although drilling is no longer imminent, Shell has signaled continued interest in the region and the Administration is still considering new leases. In the coming year, we will continue our fight against future drilling and for a more resilient Arctic marine ecosystem.

We redoubled our efforts to restore the Gulf of Mexico following the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster.

In the years after the BP disaster polluted the Gulf with nearly 5 million barrels of oil, damage to fishing communities and marine wildlife continues to emerge. Roughly 4 to 8 billion oysters were lost, and bottlenose dolphins are expected to take 40-50 years to recover. The historic $20.8 billion settlement announced this year will help us address spill impacts and achieve long-term restoration goals. The inclusion of over $1 billion for ocean restoration—as well as separate funds to monitor long-term spill effects—were major victories. Ocean Conservancy remains steadfast in ensuring that every dime of funding is directed as intended.

We led the way in tackling ocean plastics.

This year we were thrilled to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the International Coastal Cleanup. Thanks to millions of volunteers, we have protected marine wildlife by removing more than 200 million pounds of trash from beaches and waterways over the last three decades. We are also leading a growing coalition of influential partners through the Trash Free Seas Alliance®

to keep trash and plastics from entering the ocean in the first place. With our Alliance partners we released a first-of-its-kind report, Stemming the Tide, which outlines specific solutions to reduce the amount of plastic waste flowing into the ocean by 45 percent.

As 2015 comes to a close, we are proud to reflect on everything our teams and our supporters have accomplished this year. These successes are your successes. We are also excited for all of the progress we can make in 2016: We’re ready to continue to make strides towards a healthier, more sustainable ocean.


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An Ocean of Thanks http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/11/23/an-ocean-of-thanks/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 20:00:34 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11105

This has been a good year for the ocean. The hard work of ocean advocates — like you —has resulted in a series of victories moving us towards a cleaner, healthier ocean for the communities and animals that depend on it.

Join me in celebrating a few of the ocean successes we’ve seen over the past year:

  • Ocean plastic is now on the top of the international agenda, and we’re on the way towards an action plan to reduce ocean plastic by half.
  • The $20.8 billion BP settlement for their Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 is based on real science, on transparent governance and contains essential provisions for ocean health and science.  Things are looking good for the Gulf.
  • The Arctic regulatory environment is now configured in a way that post-Shell, new exploration in U.S. waters in the next decade is almost impossible. Things are looking better for the Arctic.
  • The International Coastal Cleanup celebrated 30 years. For three decades, Ocean Conservancy has inspired millions of volunteers around the world to clean up their coastlines. Last year, an astounding 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash — equivalent to weight of 38 blue whales. Things are looking better for our beaches.
  • We have pioneered a far better way to make ocean planning decisions in New England and the mid-Atlantic, and the first wind farm is a direct beneficiary of that.
  • We’re blazing new trails in figuring out entirely new approaches on how to think about commercial fishing.

None of these remarkable victories could have happened without you. I want to express my sincerest gratitude for your support, and I hope I can continue to count on you as we continue to work tirelessly for our ocean.

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Go Behind the Scenes in the Philippines http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/29/go-behind-the-scenes-in-the-philippines/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/29/go-behind-the-scenes-in-the-philippines/#comments Tue, 29 Sep 2015 16:49:53 +0000 Eric DesRoberts http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10787

ZSL staff and volunteers before this year’s International Coastal Cleanup Day.

A Look Back and a Sneak Peak Forward

We’ve been working behind the scenes for a more than a year, working on solutions to plastic pollution in the ocean. Tomorrow, we’ll reveal our new report, Stemming the Tide: Land-based strategies for a plastic free ocean. Before we reveal our next steps, we wanted to take a look back over the last 30 years of the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), and the partners who have made the work possible.

We recently traveled to the Philippines to attend a meeting of the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC), and sat down with longtime ICC volunteer coordinator Amado Blanco, the Project Manager (Net-Works) at Zoological Society of London (ZSL) in the Philippines.

The Philippines are one of five countries we’re focusing on as a solution to plastic pollution, so we wanted to get a better idea of what is actually happening on the ground. Amado has worked with us for more than 15 years, and provides some great insights.

Q: Amado, tell us about the main goals and objectives of the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) – Philippines, and some of your marine debris initiatives.

A: ZSL envisions a world where animals are valued, and their conservation is assured. Its mission is to promote the worldwide conservation of animals and their habitats. ZSL recently embraced its 2026 Mission Targets, which includes the following:

  • Define and monitor the status of the world’s protected areas and at least 20,000 species
  • Improve the status of at least 100 of the world’s most threatened and distinct species
  • Protect and restore at least 1 million km2 of coastal and marine habitat and ½ million km2 of terrestrial habitat
  • Ensure best practice for natural resource use in at least 1 million km2 of priority production landscapes

Over the years, ZSL has actively promoted and supported the annual International Coastal Cleanup.  While we have helped catalyze the annual participation of partner communities and local governments in the ICC, we have also developed our Net-Works banner initiative, directed at finding more sustainable, broad-based, and innovative solutions to addressing instances of dumping or abandoning fishing nets in our ocean. Abandoned nets are disastrous to both people and environment, and they result in a phenomenon known as ghost fishing. With fisheries declining globally, we cannot afford to set up ghost traps.

Q: You mentioned that ZSL has led International Coastal Cleanup events in the past. After your 15 years of clean ups, tell us how you think the ICC is connected to your work?

A: Over the years, our organization has actively promoted the ICC and trained a network of partner communities. I am proud to say many of these communities can now host ICC events independently.  This year, ZSL Philippines organized a cleanup in Guindacpan Island in Danajon Bank primarily to mobilize in-house divers and local fishers to collect discarded nets, test if we can tap our partner community bank as a buying station of other recyclable plastics, and generate funds internally to enhance management of existing marine protected area through a match funding scheme whereby Net-Works matches every peso that is generated from the sale of nets and other plastics collected on community cleanup day.

Q: Tell us about the hurdles to your work? If so, how were you able to overcome them?

A: The first major hurdle we had to grapple with was choosing the right community-level social infrastructures for Net-Works. Initially, we only had resources to implement the proof of concept phase for six months.  My UK based manager and I explored local and international community-banking experiences, which eventually led us to the works of Feed The Children Philippines and World Vision Philippines on community banking.

I think what allowed us to overcome our dilemma was the approach of scanning and tapping into what already existed on site and our willingness to embrace new approaches. Community banks are now primarily driving collections of nets for recycling.

We are still trying to figure out how to deal with waste  from plastics produced internally and exported by sea currents to island villages and isolated mainland coastal communities. Perhaps this is something that we could work with Ocean Conservancy on.

Q:  Since 2012, your work has focused on fishing gear that would otherwise clog our waterways – describe the changes and impacts that you’ve seen.

A: As of August 2015, Net-Works has shipped 51,934kg (114,495 lbs.) of net out to Aquafil in Slovenia – bringing communities into a mainstream supply chain for nylon yarn. Gross value of the volume of nets collected is US $63,653, of which $26,626 represents direct community income and the rest is infused into the local economy via baling labor, porterage, transport service fees, and export facilitation.

Net-Works now operates in 22 collection sites in two regions in central Philippines. It has set up 15 community banks that serve as on-site buying stations of used nets and platforms for village-level conservation education and actions. The community banks are self-generating their own social funds, which extend modest financial support to members in case a family member needs to be taken to a hospital or buy medications. It has now gone global with the establishment of the project in four villages in the Lake Ossa region of Cameroon, West Africa.

Q: We’re about to release a new report that focuses on the importance of implementing waste management infrastructures in rapidly industrializing countries – what would that mean to you in the Philippines?

A: I think the success of solutions rests heavily on communities, industry support, and an ecological governance platform supported by strong political will. In countries with population nearing or already past explosion levels, like the Philippines, households and communities are the biggest producers of plastic wastes. Hence, genuine and sustained participation of communities is very crucial.

Industry has the flexibility and resources to support both research and development of innovative approaches, and create market value and a strong supply chain for recyclable plastics. The income communities derived by tapping the industry-linked supply chain provides long-term motivation for waste recycling. For instance, Interface provided ZSL resources to undertake a short proof-of-concept project, which essentially involved assessing the viability of partnering with community organizations as social infrastructures for net recycling and developing and testing the Net-Works business model. And, through dialogue with another industry player (Aquafil), Interface set up a secure market for nets collected by community organizations ZSL Philippines helped catalyze.

Government should elevate ecological governance to a new height. This governance should go beyond mere passage of ecological waste management policies and programs, procurement and installation of stand-alone garbage bins and materials recovery facilities. Setting the standards for long-term compliance and eventually molding the societal norms on how wastes should be managed should drive the strict implementation of these policies and programs. Governments can also provide incentives to industries that invest on capital intensive waste recycling ventures (e.g. waste to power or waste to fuel).

Q: Tell us about the success of your partnership with Interface.

A: In 2011, Interface convened two workshops with ZSL, yarn supplier Aquafil, and experts from business and conservation. The workshops allowed attendees to share their goals and interests and the ultimate result was a pilot of Net-Works in the Danajon Bank in 2012.

For ZSL this was an opportunity to tackle the growing environmental problem of discarded fishing nets and work with communities to protect the ecosystem, improve their livelihoods and harness the benefits of partnering with a corporate. For, Interface, the company has a goal to source 100% recycled material for its carpet tiles by the year 2020, and the nets represented a perfect feedstock.

Q: What do you think about the importance of recycling and waste management in the Philippines and other rapidly developing economies?

A:  I think with the current educational level of our people, the majority or people understand why we should not throw wastes indiscriminately as flooding and inland water bodies, will eventually transport wastes to the sea. In populous countries like the Philippines, managing wastes at source points (i.e. households and communities) is vital to reducing the volume of waste that end up in the sea.

Translating understanding into sustained practice is about eliminating barriers and providing incentives. It is very important that household and community level waste management initiatives are linked to effective waste collection systems, which should be the primary responsibility of our state institutions, especially local government units. Nobody likes to live in a dirty environment and living in a healthy community is in itself an incentive. With Net-Works, we have demonstrated that waste management can be made more compelling when participation can also mean immediate economic and social incentives. In coastal villages where Net-Works operates, fishers are no longer throwing away used fishing nets because we have set up community associations (which act practically like garbage receptacles) that buy their discarded nets at compelling prices.

Q: What suggestions or tips would you give to people who want to reduce their waste footprint?

A: We should rethink and alter our consumption patterns. A person’s consumption pattern determines the potential volume of wastes. In populous countries like the Philippines, the family is the best place to inculcate and demonstrate positive consumer values and discipline.

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Every Piece, Every Person, Every Community: Building on 30 Years of the International Coastal Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/16/every-piece-every-person-every-community-building-on-30-years-of-the-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2015/09/16/every-piece-every-person-every-community-building-on-30-years-of-the-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Wed, 16 Sep 2015 12:41:16 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=10747

Back in 1986, Linda Maraniss moved to Texas from Washington, DC, where she had been working for Ocean Conservancy (then called the Center for Environmental Education). She had been deeply impressed by the work her Ocean Conservancy colleague Kathy O’Hara was doing on a groundbreaking report called Plastics in the Ocean: More than a Litter Problem that would be published the next year.

When Linda discovered a Texas beach covered with huge amounts of things like plastic containers and old rope, she knew this trash posed a serious threat to wildlife and ecosystems. And she felt compelled to take action.

Linda and Kathy reached out to the Texas General Land Office and other dedicated ocean-lovers, and planned what would become the first official Cleanup. They asked volunteers to go beyond picking up trash and record each item collected on a standardized data card in order to identify ways to eliminate ocean trash in the future.

The Cleanup has grown immensely in the 30 years since Linda and Kathy’s first Cleanup. It has become the perfect illustration of what can be accomplished when people come together around a common goal. Renee Tuggle, Texas State Coordinator for the International Coastal Cleanup, has been involved since the very first beginning.

“What I have learned from the Cleanup experience,” Renee said, “is that even though the Cleanup started in Texas with a small number of 2,800 volunteers… it has grown into a massive cleanup that involves both national and international volunteers all pitching in for the same common goal of cleaning up our coastal waters and taking care of our beaches. I am proud to be a part of this global movement and I appreciate all of the help and support I get from the Ocean Conservancy staff.”

Other volunteers talked about the impacts they’ve seen the Cleanup have on the community. “It has been very rewarding being able to see throughout my 13 years how people have become more environmentally aware,” said Mexico coordinator Alejandra López. “We can sense this by increasing the number of volunteers at our International Coastal Cleanup every year. Also, local authorities have taken more responsibility in locations like Playa Miramar and Laguna del Carpintero.”

Renee and Alejandra’s remarks are great reminders of just a handful of the valuable lessons we’ve learned since the Cleanup’s beginning. Most of all, we’ve learned that there’s a powerful community of volunteers who love the ocean as much as we do.  Don’t forget to sign up and get involved in the 30th International Coastal Cleanup.

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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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