Ocean Currents » trash free seas http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 28 Apr 2017 22:26:28 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Different Pole, Same Problem: Plastic Pollution in Antarctica’s Ocean http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/28/different-pole-same-problem-plastic-pollution-in-antarcticas-ocean/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/28/different-pole-same-problem-plastic-pollution-in-antarcticas-ocean/#comments Fri, 28 Apr 2017 13:52:34 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14267

Another study has just come out—revealing that plastic pollution has been discovered in deep-sea sediments and surface waters in the Antarctic marine ecosystem. The similarities between this research and the study I wrote about earlier in the week on plastics in the Arctic are very troubling.

Plastic pollution has now been documented in both Polar Regions on Earth. In addition to being the most remote, least populated areas on the planet, the Arctic and Antarctic are critically sensitive regions, currently being affected by increasing water temperatures and decreasing sea ice due to climate change.

Like in the Arctic, microplastics found in the Southern Ocean aren’t originating in Antarctica—they drift on ocean currents, potentially for for thousands of miles, and meet this relative dead-end where they can accumulate and harm ocean wildlife. This study shows us, once again, that we must support continued ocean plastics research and monitoring in order to understand the full extent of the problem and come up with solutions commensurate in scope and scale.

You can support these efforts and join the fight for trash free seas by taking action and volunteering at a local cleanup.

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Plastic Pollution is Threatening the Arctic http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/26/plastic-pollution-is-threatening-the-arctic/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/04/26/plastic-pollution-is-threatening-the-arctic/#comments Wed, 26 Apr 2017 17:49:52 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=14257

Scientists are learning more about the threats microplastics pose to our ocean. Photo credit: NOAA

Last week, a new study published in in the journal Science Advances found that the Arctic Ocean is accumulating high concentrations of plastics―specifically in the Greenland and Barents seas. I wanted to share with you why this study is so alarming, what it means for the health of the ocean and how you can help. Here are five things you need to know from the new study. 

The trash traveled a long way

The accumulation of plastic in the Arctic region is almost certainly not caused by local populations. Instead, it’s carried in from distant regions by currents in the Atlantic Ocean—a sort of “plastic conveyor belt,” as the researchers put it—which culminates in Arctic waters.  Researchers found that the Arctic plastic was tiny, weathered and aged, indicating that it had been traveling the seas for decades, fragmenting into smaller and smaller pieces along the way. The study didn’t document much plastic in the Arctic Ocean beyond the Greenland and Barents seas, again suggesting that currents—or the ‘conveyer belt’—carried the debris to Arctic waters.

The Arctic is worth protecting

The Arctic is home to animals found nowhere else on Earth. Where else can you find the longest living vertebrate on the planet (the 400-year old Greenland shark), the unicorn of the sea (the narwhal), and the colorful Spectacled Eider? Polar bears prowl the ice looking for ringed seals. Pacific walruses, too, call the Arctic home. They dive from ice floes and use their sensitive whiskers to locate mollusks on the ocean floor.

Trash in the Arctic is unique

Plastic pollution is not the only threat to imperil the Arctic. Today the Arctic faces unparalleled challenges from oil and gas development, increasing vessel traffic and other industrial activity— not to mention increasing water temperatures, decreasing sea ice and other climate change effects. All these impacts jeopardize the integrity of the Arctic marine ecosystem. Adding ocean plastics to this list of pressures is simply not acceptable.

Arctic summer sea ice is shrinking to ever-lower levels, and more and more vessels are venturing into the open water. As vessel traffic in the region grows, so too does the threat posed by both intentional and incidental discharge of trash and other waste into Arctic waters. Therefore, it’s critical that we put in place strong environmental protection measures for the Arctic now. 

Ocean pollution is a BIG problem

Scientists have recorded nearly 700 species of marine wildlife that have been affected by marine debris. With an estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste entering the ocean every year from land, marine species will be living in an ocean that could contain one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish by 2025!

And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets. As many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five mm) now circulate in the ocean. These tiny fragments are harming marine life—that  not only ingest microplastics, but also take them in through their gills.

There may be no practical way to clean up ocean plastic on a large scale, especially microplastics in remote, turbulent places like the Arctic. But thanks to research like that published by Cozar et al. (2017), we’re continuing to understand the transport and fate of ocean plastics The next step is translating that into better waste reduction and management practices on land.

People are a BIG part of the solution

The Arctic research points to people as the source of the problem. Fortunately, people are also the solution.

Over the course of the 32-year history of the International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers have removed more than 220 million items from beaches and waterways around the world. One memorable story comes from Colleen Rankin—a marine debris cleanup veteran. She lives in Blue Fox Bay, Alaska. Colleen regularly hauls debris off remote beaches miles away back to her home, where she re-uses whatever she can and stores the rest for eventual disposal. Colleen says, “even here on the coast of Alaska, I’m surrounded every day by reminders of people from faraway places. That’s because the beaches near my home are literally covered in plastic, trash and netting.”

Currently, there is a bi-partisan bill in Congress that will further support the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s research to better understand the impacts of this marine pollution and identify solutions to stop the flow of plastic waste into our ocean and onto remote shores like Blue Fox Bay.

You can join in by taking action and telling your Senators to support this important piece of legislation.

And whether you’re on the shores of Blue Fox Bay or the river in Brooklyn, you can join in local cleanup efforts—joining the thousands of International Coastal Cleanup® volunteers who are working for a cleaner ocean by picking up the millions of pounds of trash that wash onto beaches and into waterways around the world.

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Ocean Trash: It’s Not OK http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/21/ocean-trash-its-not-ok/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2017/02/21/ocean-trash-its-not-ok/#comments Tue, 21 Feb 2017 16:25:02 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13761

“It’s not ok to destroy our ocean. It’s not one person’s problem. It’s everyone’s problem.” — Kelly Slater, world champion surfer and Outerknown founder

Kelly Slater knows something about a healthy ocean. As an 11-time World Surf League Champion, Slater has spent countless hours in marine environments all over the world and seen how beautiful—and damaged—the ocean can be. He has seen first-hand the massive amounts of marine debris and plastic that end up in our ocean, threatening wildlife from whales to plankton. And that, says Slater, is not OK.

When Slater joined menswear designer John Moore to found the Outerknown clothing brand, their mission was simple, yet monumental: to view every aspect of the business through the lens of responsibility. By developing stylish yet sustainable products, their goal was to help protect our natural resources, empower the people crafting the clothes and inspire positive change within the industry.

Now, Outerknown is joining forces with Ocean Conservancy to launch the #ITSNOTOK program to raise awareness about the massive environmental problem of marine trash and inspire people to take action and clean up our ocean.

There’s no doubt about it: ocean plastic pollution is a big problem. An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flow from land into the ocean every year, meaning that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish. And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets—as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five mm) now circulate in the ocean.

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve been fighting back against ocean pollution for over 30 years. Our annual International Coastal Cleanup has mobilized nearly 12 million volunteers all around the world and has prevented 220 million pounds of trash from flowing into the ocean. But it’s going to take a coordinated effort from all types of stakeholders, including industry, to truly tackle the massive problem of ocean trash.

Outerknown’s new #ITSNOTOK collection includes products developed from sustainable materials like organic cotton. 100% of the profits from the sale of these products will be donated to Ocean Conservancy to support our work to conserve our ocean.

“We’re thrilled to be the first recipients of Outerknown’s #ITSNOTOK campaign to tackle the crisis of marine debris,” said Andreas Merkl, CEO of Ocean Conservancy. “The ocean is part of all of us and every single person can help make a positive difference to our ocean and coastal communities.”

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Inspired and Connected for Trash Free Seas http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/22/inspired-and-connected-for-trash-free-seas/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/22/inspired-and-connected-for-trash-free-seas/#comments Tue, 22 Nov 2016 19:56:06 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13395

As we ease into the holiday season, I am grateful to have been part of an amazing event halfway around the world where I witnessed the positive energy and impact that can only arise when we work together. It was a powerful reminder of how our ocean brings us together.

As part of the Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Program, I went to Hong Kong for our first-ever International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) Asia Pacific coordinators meeting. As you may know, the International Coastal Cleanup is the world’s largest volunteer effort on behalf of the ocean and collectively, partners from around the world have kept 100 million tons of trash out of our ocean in the past three decades.  The Asia Pacific region is where much of the world’s ocean trash originates, and Ocean Conservancy was eager to learn from our partners on the front lines.

At the regional meeting, there were 12 countries represented, and attendees from California, Hawaii, Oregon and Washington, all bringing a wealth of talents, expertise and experience to the table. Their leadership and work in the marine debris field as well as their community organizing skills continues to make a huge difference to the health of our ocean. The meeting in Hong Kong was an opportunity to celebrate their accomplishments and identify new paths based on science, best practices and a shared commitment to stem the tide of trash in our seas.

Our meeting began with a cleanup at Lap Sap Wan led by our co-hosts and ICC partner, Hong Kong Cleanup. This beach, similar to many locations in Asia Pacific and around the world, was completely covered in debris. At times it was knee-deep.

We noted the types of items (polystyrene, plastic PET bottles and fishing gear, to name a few), inferred how they may have reached that location and tracked our findings on Ocean Conservancy’s new marine debris data collection app called Clean Swell (IOS /Android).

The cleanup spurred conversations around an issue that is overwhelming and complex but ultimately connects us all and compels us to seek solutions on a global level. With so much knowledge, talent and energy in one place the meeting was rich in discussion, not only in regards to cleanup practices but also in the realm of new research and innovative solutions.

We shared successes stories like a system that upcycles discarded fishing nets into carpet. We also heard about challenges like addressing misconceptions and finding ways for the public to understand that marine debris is not your or my problem, it is our problem.

Between brainstorms and panel discussions, we also found time to talk about SCUBA diving and surfing and experience Hong Kong. One of my favorite meals was dinner at Linguini Fini, a zero-waste restaurant on Hong Kong Island.

I came away recognizing the power and increased impact in working together. I am thankful for the partnerships—and friendships—that the ICC has helped to build across cultures, geographies and time zones as we all work towards trash free seas.

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4 Reasons the California Bag Ban Makes Us Smile http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/16/4-reasons-the-california-bag-ban-makes-us-smile/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/11/16/4-reasons-the-california-bag-ban-makes-us-smile/#comments Wed, 16 Nov 2016 15:17:37 +0000 George Leonard http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=13348

Last week was a tough one for many around the nation. The 2016 election season reached a stressful conclusion last Tuesday night and considerable uncertainty remains about where our nation is headed and what the future holds. Last week my home state of sunny California gave me something to celebrate: voters approved Proposition 67, the statewide ban on carry-out plastic bags, 52 percent to 48 percent. Here are four reasons I’m smiling over this news!

  1. California voters are setting a ‘blue’ example for the rest of the nation by speaking up for the ocean and voting for a future where the ocean is free of trash. Californians strongly said NO to effort by out-of-state plastic manufacturers to undermine the ban that had already been approved by California legislators.
  2. Environmental groups led a very successful grassroots organizing effort statewide. Amazing groups like, Californians Against Waste, the California Coastkeeper Alliance, and my local Save Our Shores paved the way to this victory and showed that people really can make a difference!
  3. Proposition 67 will help eliminate the 25 million plastic bags polluting our beaches and waterways. Plastic and marine debris—makes its way from the land to our shores and eventually the ocean—choking and entangling dolphins, endangering sea turtles, spoiling our beaches and depressing our local economies. In fact, my colleagues and I published a study earlier this year that showed that plastic bags were the most impactful consumer goods plastic item polluting the ocean.
  4. And, finally… the ban takes effect immediately—stores will no longer provide single-use plastic carry-out bags to customers across the state. If customers forget to bring their own bag to the store, they will end up paying around 10 cents for a recycled paper bag or reusable alternative. This fee structure has been shown to be extremely effective in reducing plastic pollution.

My home state continues to be a leader on a range of environmental policy, from climate change to marine protected areas. The voter’s collective decision this week to ban disposable plastic bags will go a long way to ensuring a healthy California ocean well into the future.



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Thanks for a Fantastic International Coastal Cleanup! http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/20/thanks-for-a-fantastic-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/20/thanks-for-a-fantastic-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Tue, 20 Sep 2016 13:00:37 +0000 Allison Schutes http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12890

Thank YOU! This weekend, we wrapped up another spectacular International Coastal Cleanup. Thank you so much to all of our volunteers and supporters who came out to make a difference for our ocean.

Hundreds of thousands of people turned out all over the world to clean up their local beaches and waterways.

Thank you again to everyone who participated in the International Coastal Cleanup. I am so grateful to have allies like you joining me in the fight against marine debris. While beach cleanups alone can’t solve the ocean trash problem, they are an integral piece to the overall solution.

From all of us at Ocean Conservancy – Thank You! See photos from International Coastal Cleanups below:

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Join the International Coastal Cleanup http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/14/join-the-international-coastal-cleanup/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/09/14/join-the-international-coastal-cleanup/#comments Wed, 14 Sep 2016 13:30:42 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12690

Written by Tori Glascock

Does all of this trash talk have you feeling down in the dumps? For 30 years, Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup (ICC), has helped keep trash off our beaches and out of the ocean!

Volunteers from states and territories throughout the U.S. and more than 100 countries come together each year and participate in an ICC event near them. You can sign up to clean up or propose a new cleanup site! Three decades of Cleanups have yielded more than 210 million pounds of trash being collected and saved from polluting our ocean. Over 11.5 million volunteers have covered more than 360,000 miles of coastlines across the world.

In 2015 alone, beach, underwater and watercraft volunteers covered 25,188 miles and picked up 18,062,939 million pounds of trash. A plethora of plastic items was found including beverage bottles, bottle caps, straws, bags and utensils. Changes to daily habits such as Skipping the Straw when you go out to restaurants, using reusable water bottles instead of disposable plastic ones and using reusable grocery bags will make a huge impact on helping to decrease the amount of trash that is reaching our ocean.

This year the 31st International Coastal Cleanup will take place on September 17th, 2016. Join in for a day of sun, fun and conserving the ocean!

If you can’t make it to an ICC site, you can do your own cleanup! The International Coastal Cleanup may only be once a year but that is not the only time the coasts need cleaning up. Become a champion of your ocean and keep it trash free all year long. Every piece matters too! Through our mobile data collection app, Clean Swell, each item you pick up and log is one less piece of trash in the ocean and one more step towards trash free seas.

The best thing that you can do for the ocean is to pick up any trash you see, reduce-reuse-recycle and remember that all waterways lead to the ocean! Simple habit changes can have a huge positive impact on our mission to conserve the ocean.

See you at a Cleanup site on September 17th, 2016.

Check out this informative infographic to learn more about the impact of the International Coastal Cleanup.

Tori Glascock is a 2016 Ocean Conservancy Summer Intern. 

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