The Blog Aquatic » marine debris http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:44:10 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Will We See You Tomorrow at the 29th Annual International Coastal Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/19/will-we-see-you-tomorrow-at-the-29th-annual-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/19/will-we-see-you-tomorrow-at-the-29th-annual-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Fri, 19 Sep 2014 14:00:44 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9248

Photo: Ocean Conservancy

The 29th annual International Coastal Cleanup is tomorrow! I’m extremely excited to see the amazing impact volunteers will have – and I can only image all the weird items we’ll find on our beaches.

Marine debris isn’t an ocean problem – it’s a people problem. That means people are the solution. More than 648,000 volunteers cleaned almost 13,000 miles of beaches and shorelines last year alone. That massive effort collectively removed 12.3 million pounds of trash worldwide!

You can be part of this marine debris solution by joining us tomorrow! A great way to turn the tide on trash is to sign up to clean up your local beach, shoreline or park as part of this year’s International Coastal Cleanup. Preventing the trash we find on beaches and shorelines from ever entering the ocean isn’t the only way of making our seas trash free. However, it’s an important step to protecting endangered animals that are threatened by marine debris.

You can also join the 25,000 people taking the Last Straw Challenge. Every time you’re at a sit down restaurant, tell your waiter to hold the straw. You can help prevent 5 million plastic straws from entering our ocean and landfills by not using a straw when you go out to eat.

Plastic pollution poses a significant threat. Plastics fragment in the ocean and become bite-sized pieces that marine life can accidentally consume. This can cause digestive problems for ocean animals and even death. Spending some time cleaning your beach can have an amazing impact on marine life like sea turtles and seals.

If you can’t join us tomorrow, it’s okay. Cleaning up beaches and shorelines isn’t just a one-day affair. The most important thing you can do when you go to the beach is to leave it just as you found it – or leave it in an even better condition for your next trip. Cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bottle caps and straws all make the top 10 most collected items of trash we find during the International Coastal Cleanup. You can be an ocean champion every day by collecting any trash you find out of place.

If you’re at a Cleanup site tomorrow, we want to hear from you! Tweet us your ICC experience by using #2014CleanUp. If you find something weird, tweet or Instagram a picture of it using #WeirdFinds.

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Trash-Talking On Our 42nd Birthday http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/07/trash-talking-on-our-42nd-birthday/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/07/trash-talking-on-our-42nd-birthday/#comments Sun, 07 Sep 2014 12:00:43 +0000 Andreas Merkl http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9177  

Photo: Kanyarat Kosavisutte

Ocean Conservancy is turning 42 today – that makes us one of the oldest conservation organizations in the US.  But 42 is the new 17, and we’re feeling anything but settled these days.  Sure, we are delighted at our successes (none more so than the complete turnaround of US fisheries).  There are definitely a few things that really frost our cookies – and none more so than that disgusting and dangerous mess that is clinically known as “marine debris.”

Let’s call it what it is:  trash in the ocean. The ocean contains a staggering amount of it.  There’s enough to fill more than 200 professional football stadiums. In ten years or so, there will be one ton of trash for every 2-3 tons of fish.  If you love the ocean, that’s just completely unacceptable.

And it’s not like that trash just bobs around on the surface (about 70 percent of plastics produced float), looking ugly but doing little harm.  Quite the opposite – we have report after report coming in that most of the plastic degrades into tiny pieces, which, if you’re an anchovy or a sardine or a turtle, look a lot like food.  Much of it is eaten and is inside the animals.  And to makes things worse, these tiny plastic pellets have the nasty property of adsorbing and concentrating the low-level industrial pollution that is ubiquitous in seawater, effectively turning plastic fragments into toxic pellets.  So what we get is a slow contamination of the entire ocean biota.

The majority of ocean trash hails from rapidly industrializing countries where plastics consumption is exploding and waste management infrastructure lags far behind.  Eventually, these countries will implement waste systems, but by then it will be too late – plastics stick around the ocean for hundreds of years.  Unfortunately, there are no silver bullet solutions – plastics are unlikely to be banned or replaced in time to avoid the avalanche over the next ten years. To address the systemic problem, what is needed is for plastic and consumer product industries to step to the forefront and put their enormous resources to work.  We can’t do it without them.  Nobody knows logistics better.  Nobody is more skilled at social marketing.  And certainly, nobody has more financial resources.

We are starting a major campaign on ocean trash that goes far beyond the scope of our traditional International Coastal Cleanup.  In the years to come, we will lead the development of an entirely new approach to financing and establishing critically needed infrastructure in those places which spew the most plastic into the ocean.  Stay close, stay tuned in, and become involved.  We can do this.

Forty-two has never looked better. And our biggest birthday wish is to stop the flow of plastics into the ocean.  But before we can achieve that reality, the best gift you can give us for our birthday is to join us on September 20 for the International Coastal Cleanup.

We thank you. And the ocean thanks you.

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25,000 Ocean Lovers Accepted the Last Straw Challenge http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/06/25000-ocean-lovers-accepted-the-last-straw-challenge/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/06/25000-ocean-lovers-accepted-the-last-straw-challenge/#comments Sat, 06 Sep 2014 18:00:19 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9184

Photo: Samantha Reinders

We did it! We were able to get 25,000 ocean lovers to accept the Last Straw Challenge before the International Coastal Cleanup on September 20. This means we’re preventing 5 million plastic straws from ever ending up in our ocean or landfills.

That’s right — 5 million plastic straws. A small gesture like asking your waiter to hold the straw every time you’re at a sit down restaurant is a big help for marine wildlife. Endangered animals like sea turtles, albatross and seals are at especially high risk of the dangers of plastic pollution. They mistakenly consume pieces of plastic and are at risk of choking on them or damaging their digestive systems.

International Coastal Cleanup volunteers picked up more than 555,000 straws on our beaches and shorelines last year alone. With the average American eating out four times a week and almost always using a straw or two, the dinner table is a great place to start turning the tide on trash. With this kind of commitment, we’re that much closer to having trash free seas.

There’s still more we can do! The International Coastal Cleanup is on September 20. Sign up to clean up your local beach or shoreline today!

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Vote for Louisiana Cleanup Volunteer to Win Cox Conserves Heroes Award! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/03/vote-for-louisiana-cleanup-volunteer-to-win-cox-conserves-heroes-award/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/09/03/vote-for-louisiana-cleanup-volunteer-to-win-cox-conserves-heroes-award/#comments Wed, 03 Sep 2014 13:20:24 +0000 Rachel Guillory http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=9135

We are so excited that Benjamin Goliwas, a long-time volunteer who helps coordinate the International Coastal Cleanup in Louisiana, has been selected as a finalist for the Louisiana Cox Conserves Heroes Awards. Ben, who goes by “The Admiral,” has organized cleanups around Louisiana for years, and his hard work was crucial in cleaning up the storm debris from Lake Pontchartrain after Hurricane Katrina in 2004.

“After Hurricane Katrina, the things we pulled out of the water and removed from our shores were amazing,” said Ben. “Not just tires, but the whole car; refrigerators still full; dining room tables with the silverware; and just about everything anybody can think of. Every year since, we’ve found something equally unusual, including vessels and pieces of the dock. It’s very dangerous for boaters in the marina.”

In the New Orleans area, Lake Pontchartrain Basin Foundation plays a critical role in mobilizing volunteers, distributing supplies and collecting trash and data cards—not to mention organizing a big party on the lakefront afterward! Thanks to their dedication, thousands of Louisiana residents come together as a community every year to prevent trash from reaching the Gulf, where it poses a threat to marine wildlife and habitats, local economies and even human health.

The 2014 International Coastal Cleanup will be held on Saturday, September 20. Every year, nearly 650,000 volunteers around the world clean trash from beaches, lakes, rivers, streams and other waterways in more than 90 countries. Find a cleanup near you and join us on September 20!

Don’t forget to vote for Ben for the Cox Conserves Heroes Award. The winner receives $10,000 to donate to the nonprofit of their choice!

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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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Nowhere to Hide: More Than Fish May be Impacted by Plastic Pollution http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/23/nowhere-to-hide-more-than-fish-may-be-impacted-by-plastic-pollution/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/23/nowhere-to-hide-more-than-fish-may-be-impacted-by-plastic-pollution/#comments Wed, 23 Jul 2014 21:00:35 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8801

The problem of plastics in the ocean has been receiving a lot of attention recently.  You might even say it’s “trending.” As it should be.  Ideas about how to clean up the mess are circulating around the internet, including input from professional ocean scientists on how likely these ideas are to really be effective.  But the cutting edge of scientific inquiry is assessing the extent to which plastics in the ocean – especially tiny fragments called microplastics – are impacting marine life.  A recent study suggests it’s not just fish that might be eating plastic.

While microplastics have increasingly been documented in a range of fish from different parts of the ocean, a team from the UK has now shown that sea creatures aren’t just eating plastic, they are breathing it.  In an elegant laboratory study, researchers at the University of Glasgow found that crabs exposed to microplastics uptake these particles through respiration and then retain them on their gills for as long as 3 weeks.  This occurs despite the fact that crabs have a specialized appendage called a gill raker (similar to a windshield wiper) for clearing dirt and debris from crabs’ respiratory tracts.

Furthermore, crabs might get a double-whammy of plastics as researchers confirmed that crabs can also be exposed to plastics the good old fashioned way – by eating mussels (their primary food) who themselves have been contaminated with plastic as a result of filtering water for their microscopic prey.

If you are an ocean creature, there may be nowhere to hide from plastics.  Whether large or small, if you make your living by filtering water for food, you could uptake plastics.  If you munch prey that has taken up microplastics, you can also be exposed. And if you breathe in water through gills, as nearly all of marine life does, you also can be exposed to plastics.  While scientists have now demonstrated the various mechanisms by which this exposure can occur, what remains to be uncovered is how pervasive this impact is throughout the world’s oceans and whether it poses a threat to humans who eat many of these sea creatures. Last week’s study confirms that the more we learn about plastics in the ocean, the more concerns grow.

But there are reasons to remain optimistic. The global challenge of plastic in the ocean got a big boost from Secretary Kerry’s Our Ocean Summit last month, where the topic shared the stage with other major threats like global overfishing and ocean acidification. Efforts are underway to ban some uses of plastic that harm the ocean and for which there are good substitutes; Illinois recently banned the sale of cosmetics containing synthetic microbeads, the millions of bits of plastic that escape waste water treatment facilities and find their way into the Great Lakes and the oceans. Four other states are considering similar legislation. California is considering a new trash policy, which would make preventing plastics and other materials from entering waterways a statewide priority.

Individuals can make a huge difference, too. You can sign up to clean your local beach or waterway during the International Coastal Cleanup this September 20th. And don’t forget to take the Last Straw Challenge to keep millions of straws from having a chance to find their way to the ocean.

While emerging science points to a large and growing impact of plastics on ocean wildlife, together we can all turn the tide on trash by fighting for a healthy ocean.

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The Five Myths (and Truths) About Plastic Pollution in Our Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/17/the-five-myths-and-truths-about-plastic-pollution-in-our-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2014/07/17/the-five-myths-and-truths-about-plastic-pollution-in-our-ocean/#comments Thu, 17 Jul 2014 18:00:39 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=8754

Photo by John Kieser

As the Director of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Program, I’ve had the opportunity to meet people who care about the ocean and are making a difference for the communities that depend on it. However, I’m always surprised by the number of misconceptions about ocean plastics.

With many people visiting the beach this summer, not to mention all the coverage that ocean plastics has received recently, it’s a great opportunity to clear up some of these myths:

  1. Myth: There are floating islands of plastics in every ocean.
    Fact: Only a small percentage of ocean plastics float at the sea surface.Most plastics are dispersed throughout the water column, resting on the seafloor, trapped in Arctic ice, or inside ocean animals. The plastic gyres you hear about in the news are primarily composed of tiny plastic particles that are the degraded fragments of their original form (i.e., bottles, containers, toys)—many are the size of a grain of rice. 
  2. Myth: Ocean plastic primarily comes from ocean dumping and industry, such as cruise ships or container ships. .
    Fact: Most of the plastics in the ocean come from items we use every day—bags, bottles, caps, food containers, etc. By limiting single-use plastics in our everyday lives and disposing of these items properly, we can reduce the amount of plastic waste entering the ocean. 
  3. Myth: Ocean trash gyres, large areas of the ocean where currents concentrate trash, can simply be cleaned out of existence.
    Fact: While some surface trash can be cleaned, many plastics break down and become dispersed. Only a small percentage of total ocean plastics inputs rest at the surface. The rest is distributed throughout the ocean or winds up inside animals. We don’t have a realistic, efficient way to remove these plastics from the system (yet).
  4. Myth: Ocean plastics are just a trash problem.
    Fact: Plastic particles are now found inside animals and throughout the ocean food chain—from mussels to fish to turtles to whales. 
  5. Myth: There is one, simple solution capable of solving our ocean plastics problem.
    Fact: Bans, fees, recycling nor product redesign alone can fix this. The ultimate solution is a combination of all of these and more. The biggest impact will come from stopping the massive amounts of plastic litter before it travels over land, and into our waterways and ocean.

With all this in mind, you might be thinking—what can I do to make a difference? You can sign up to clean your local beach or waterway by joining Ocean Conservancy in the International Coastal Cleanup on Saturday, September 20. You’ll be among hundreds of thousands of volunteers working towards a cleaner ocean.

Cleanups alone can’t solve this problem, but volunteers are instrumental in helping us assemble our Ocean Trash Index. This provides us with a snapshot of what’s trashing our ocean so we can work towards preventing the most abundant and problematic items of trash from reaching the water in the first place.

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