The Blog Aquatic » Japan Environmental Action Network News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Thu, 14 Aug 2014 17:21:33 +0000 en-US hourly 1 International Coastal Cleanup Coordinators Lead and Inspire Volunteers for Trash Free Seas Fri, 31 Aug 2012 14:27:50 +0000 Catherine Fox

Yoshiko Ohkura (center) of JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network) cleans a beach at Gamo Tidal Flat. Credit: Nick Mallos.

How much are some people willing to give to solve the problem of ocean trash? In the case of the amazing partners who organize the International Coastal Cleanup across entire countries and U.S. states, the answer is: everything they have.

We call them the “sea stars of the Cleanup.” Meet just two, Azusa Kojima and Yoshiko Ohkura from JEAN (Japan Environmental Action Network).

Like their fellow coordinators around the world, they manage a host of responsibilities, including:

  • identifying sites on the water to be cleaned and overseeing those sites;
  • educating the public and rallying a volunteer network;
  • engaging reporters from radio, television, newspapers and online news sources;
  • arranging cleanup day logistics; and
  • ensuring that data collected by volunteers reaches Ocean Conservancy for publication in the annual Ocean Trash Index.

JEAN’s efforts on behalf of the Cleanup for more than 20 years are legion. Now the recognized marine debris leader in Japan, JEAN unified existing cleanup efforts and inspired more participation by educating the public about the dangers of ocean trash. From 800 volunteers at 80 sites in 1990, JEAN has grown the Cleanup exponentially, with more than 22,000 volunteers at 234 sites in the peak year to date.

And now JEAN is on the frontline addressing debris from the 2011 tsunami. Representatives from JEAN including Azusa and Yoshiko traveled to Oregon in July; they came to participate in a workshop to plan for the arrival of tsumani debris on the West Coast.

Additional International Coastal Cleanup coordinators attending included Patrick Chandler of the Center for Alaskan Coastal Studies; Eben Schwartz of the California Coastal Commission; Chris Woolaway (who collaborates with Keep the Hawaiian Islands Beautiful and Friends of Honolulu Parks and Recreation);  Briana Goodwin of Stop Oregon Litter and Vandalism (SOLVE); and Joan Hauser-Crowe of Oregon.

“We have engaged our network of Cleanup coordinators every year for the Cleanup, and once again, they are sharing their connections, research and ideas to help prepare for what may come,” says Dave Pittenger, director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas program.

It’s easy to see that the ripple effect carries the vision of trash free seas from coordinator to coordinator, and from lakes and rivers to the ocean’s shores. That’s why we salute each and every one of them.

International Coastal Cleanup Associate Director Sonya Besteiro (second from left) joined many Cleanup coordinators at the 5th International Marine Debris Conference including Kanyarat Kosavisutte, Thailand; Muntasir Mamun, Bangladesh; Katie Register, Virginia; and Liza Gonzalez, Nicaragua.

Sonya Besteiro, who works with coordinators year-round as associate director of the Cleanup, says, “The International Coastal Cleanup would never have grown into the world’s largest volunteer effort for ocean health without all the dedicated people who make it happen in their corner of the world.”

Learn more about what goes on behind the scenes at the Cleanup. And ask yourself, “How much am I willing to give?” Consider spending a few hours pitching in and picking up at an event near you!

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Surfers Find a Way and So Will Japan Fri, 01 Jun 2012 16:42:54 +0000 Nick Mallos

Surfers cross a debris-laden barrier island at Gamo Beach, Japan. Credit: Nick Mallos

A good wave is always worth the sacrifice. It’s a unanimous sentiment shared by surfers around the world. For surfers at Gamo Beach, Japan, though, it’s not pounding surf that yields a challenge.

Instead, a 200-meter-wide body of water requires them to paddle out to a barrier island, only to traverse another 100 meters of beach where remnants of houses, car parts, bottles and innumerable other tsunami debris items litter the sand. Still, they reach the waves.

Walls of water 10 feet tall formed this island, left this debris and destroyed—or at least severely damaged—everything in its path as it moved inland. Debris piles five stories tall are the only elevation visible on the coastal horizon.

The cleanup effort here is much further along than in the Tohoku region, but progress is relative considering the magnitude of destruction. I joined forces with 11 members of Cleanup Gamo and Jean Environmental Action Network to address this remaining debris in the best way we knew how: a beach cleanup.

I spent my entire time cleaning an area roughly 3 meters by 3 meters, and I amassed a list of items most people find scouring an entire beach. After an hour of grappling concrete and sorting through driftwood, I finally grasped the enormity of the task at hand.

In both Iwate and Miyagi Prefectures, I judged progress by the number of debris piles and the amount of land cleared of debris. But once the final truck tire or refrigerator has been removed, another cleanup needs to occur—a far more gargantuan one.

Toy found among tsunami debris at Gamo Beach

Credit: Nick Mallos

Millions and millions of smaller debris items sit in the infinite crevices created by fallen trees or broken concrete. The tumultuous waters that swept in entangled twigs, ropes, fishing line and an array of debris items that one could spend hours trying to disentangle.

When our cleanup ended, our efforts were reduced to a small pile of bags undoubtedly containing stories of Japanese lives. Some probably say our efforts were insignificant in the grand scheme of the recovery effort, but I respectfully disagree.

Much like the issue of ocean trash, these small, individual efforts, when measured collectively, have huge implications for the health of our ocean.

Cleanups will be needed here, as well as in Iwate, for a very long time. But just as surfers always find a way to reach the waves, so too will the people of Japan find a way to clean up and recover from this tragedy.

My Debris Counts

  • 3 ropes
  • 2 espresso cans
  • 2 flower pots
  • 12 plastic wrappers
  • 4” x 6” foam padding
  • 1 condom wrapper
  • 3 plastic bags
  • 9 miscellaneous plastic pieces
  • 4 glass bottles
  • 3 plastic lids
  • 4 plastic bottle caps
  • 3 plastic water bottles
  • 1 other plastic bottle
  • 1 toy Yoda
  • 5 balloon ribbons
  • 1 burlap rice sack
  • 1 tube of glue
  • 1 motorcycle helmet
  • 1 coffee cup
  • 5 lighters
  • 1 aerosol can
  • 1 noodle bowl
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