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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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Will radiation from Fukushima harm distant seafood consumers?

Posted On January 15, 2014 by

Pacific bluefin tuna. Photo courtesy of NOAA Fisheries.

I’ve been receiving questions from concerned friends and family about how radiation from the Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant is affecting the marine environment and human seafood consumption. As ocean lovers, I’m sure you’re equally concerned. After reading different scientific articles and speaking with experts, I found that there are local impacts from radiation to humans and marine life around Fukushima – but impacts from radiation on the rest of the Pacific Ocean are not expected to be harmful to human consumers and marine animals.

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What To Do If You Find Tsunami Debris Washed Ashore

Posted On September 20, 2012 by

Ocean Conservancy created a Tsunami Debris Field Guide that highlights the most common items of debris that have been washing onto West Coast beaches. Click the image to download the complete version.

Marine debris generated from the March 11th tsunami is drastically different from the ocean trash that was already plaguing our ocean. Over the coming months, there may be many difficult-to-collect debris items from the tsunami such as housing and construction materials, fishing gear and vessels. We could also find potentially dangerous items such as combustibles, as well as personal items related to the victims. Therefore, it is critical that volunteers and beachcombers document each item of debris they encounter on beaches with the highest level of scrutiny.

To assist with this effort, Ocean Conservancy created a Tsunami Debris Field Guide that highlights the most common debris items that are washing onto West Coast beaches in significantly higher numbers than in previous years. Content for the field guide was informed by our database of Cleanup data, NOAA, the California Coastal Commission and International Coastal Cleanup West Coast State Coordinators.

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Japan Shows Commitment to Tsunami Debris Response Efforts

Posted On September 11, 2012 by

Rain or shine, tsunami debris will need to be removed from our coasts. Credit: Ryan Ridge

Eighteen months after the Great East Japan Earthquake and Tsunami washed away much of the Japan coastline and took the lives of thousands of Japanese citizens, the Japan Government announced it will contribute $6 million to the Canadian and United States Governments to support tsunami debris response efforts on the U.S. West Coast. Japan feels strongly about assisting the response effort, stating that the money is a way to show their appreciation and return the help they were given by Canada and the United States during the aftermath of the deadly 2011 tsunami. The tsunami debris anticipated along the U.S. West Coast underscores the fact that ocean trash is a global problem. Regardless of origin, trash travels. The ocean is the single most common connection between countries and continents, and therefore everyone has a role to play in tsunami debris response.

Ocean Conservancy welcomes Japan’s contribution of support and assistance to the tsunami debris response effort – and just as governments are working together on the issue, so have nonprofit organizations.  For more than 20 years, Ocean Conservancy has worked closely with our partners, the Japanese Environmental Action Network, tackling preventable ocean trash.  Now, they are on the forefront for response efforts following the tsunami.    The magnitude of debris that will wash onto U.S. West coast beaches remains uncertain; therefore, the best action we can take at the moment is ensuring we are adequately prepared to handle any and all predicted debris.

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Potential Tsunami Debris Found During Alaska Beach Cleanup

Posted On September 6, 2012 by

Cleaning up on a beach outside Sitka, AlaskaThe coast of southeast Alaska is renowned for its stunning beauty, and the pocket beach outside the town of Sitka was no exception: dark sand piled with tangles of storm-tossed logs and fringed with emerald grass. From a distance, the beach looked pristine.

But as our boat pulled closer, we began to see what we had come for: trash. Chunks of polystyrene foam, plastic bottles, lengths of line, bits of faded blue tarp and pieces of netting were wedged in the piles of driftwood and strewn in the beach grass. It was time to get to work.

I was in Sitka to take part in a series of beach cleanups that brought together staff from Ocean Conservancy, the Marine Conservation Alliance Foundation and the Sitka Sound Science Center, along with volunteers from Allen Marine and Holland America Line. Together, we set out to find and remove marine debris that had washed up on the shores of nearby islands.

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International Coastal Cleanup Coordinators Lead and Inspire Volunteers for Trash Free Seas

Posted On August 31, 2012 by

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.

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Tsunamis are unavoidable; trash choking our ocean is not

Posted On July 16, 2012 by

A 66-foot dock that washed up in Oregon was identified and confirmed as tsunami-related debris. Credit: NOAA

As Interim President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy and a resident of the Pacific Northwest, I watched with concern the news of a large Japanese dock landing in Oregon after being washed away by the devastating 2011 tsunami in Japan. In the Tacoma News Tribune, I explain why we should be concerned about the tsunami debris heading our way and what we can do:

While it is still too soon to know exactly how big a problem this debris will be for U.S. shores, the International Pacific Research Center estimates that 5 percent or less of the approximately 1.5 million tons of debris in the Pacific Ocean could make landfall.

To prepare for what might come, we should prioritize baseline monitoring, modeling and outreach in communities. Ocean Conservancy has been working closely with the Obama administration, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as they ramp up response efforts.

In addition to monitoring and volunteer cleanups, we also should be advocating for the resources that may be needed to deal with the aftermath of a disaster of this magnitude.

While natural disasters are inevitable, trash choking our ocean is not. Read the full story here.

Even in the Ocean, Every Rose Has Its Thorn

Posted On June 8, 2012 by

Debris found during cleanup near Yokohama, Japan

Debris collected from Transect #1 at Sea Paradise Beach -- Nick Mallos

Mawar is the Malaysian word for rose, but Typhoon Mawar has been nothing but a thorn since we arrived in Yokohama, Japan. Like hurricanes, typhoons form when tropical depressions escalate into cyclones; in the Pacific, these cyclones are called typhoons, while in the Atlantic they are known as hurricanes.

This past weekend, Mawar delivered heavy rain and sustained winds of 110 mph to the Philippines, gusting up to 130 mph and taking the lives of eight Filipinos. We felt peripheral effects of Mawar in Japan as intensifying winds and strong gusts jostled boats and tested the strength of dock lines in the marina.

So far, Mawar has delayed our departure on the Algalita/5 Gyres Japan Tsunami Debris Expedition by almost one week. To say anticipation and angst on board has been high would be an understatement. However, we have not allowed our time on land to be wasted. Continue reading »