Ocean Currents » trash free seas http://blog.oceanconservancy.org News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy Fri, 27 May 2016 15:06:23 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=3.4.2 Join the Fight for Trash Free Seas with Clean Swell http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/24/join-the-fight-for-trash-free-seas-with-clean-swell/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/24/join-the-fight-for-trash-free-seas-with-clean-swell/#comments Tue, 24 May 2016 13:30:32 +0000 Sarah Kollar http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12132

Beach season is finally upon us! This Memorial Day, people all over the country (myself included) will flock to the coasts to soak up some much-needed sunshine. But nothing ruins a good vacation day like a beach covered in trash—especially because  trash poses a huge threat to our ocean and the animals that call it home.

Ocean Conservancy is committed to keeping our beaches and ocean trash free. For 30 years we have sponsored the International Coastal Cleanup, where 11.5 million volunteers from 153 countries have collected 220 million pounds of trash. And we’re not the only ones who care about ocean trash: Every day, all over the world, concerned people take the problem into their own hands by cleaning up their local waterways.

Now we have a way to make your beach cleanups more exciting than ever (as if protecting our ocean wasn’t enough!). Introducing our brand-new Clean Swell app: a fun and easy way to keep track of the trash you collect. The app is free and available to download on both iOS and Android systems.

With Clean Swell, simply “Start Collecting” wherever you are around the world and record every item of trash you pick up. The data you collect will instantaneously upload to Ocean Conservancy’s global ocean trash database. This delivers a global snapshot of the ocean trash problem and provides researchers and policy-makers insight to inform solutions. You can even check your “Cleanup History”, so anytime, anywhere, you can see the impact you’ve had on making our ocean a cleaner and healthier ecosystem.

Here are some of the app highlights:

  • Track your progress: We’re making it easier than ever to see the long-term impact your cleanups have on the ocean. See the total distance cleaned, the total weight of the trash you collect and a historical record of your cleanup efforts.
  • Contribute to science: When you add to Ocean Conservancy’s global ocean trash database, you’re helping to create ocean trash solutions by identifying trends. The app also provides scientific facts about the impact of trash on ocean animals and shares tips on how you can help.
  • Share your results: You can share your cleanup results and photos with friends via Facebook, Twitter, and email right from the app.

Join us in a global movement to keep beaches, waterways and the ocean trash free. This weekend, while you’re enjoying some quality beach time, don’t forget to collect any trash you may see and use Clean Swell to record your efforts! The ocean, and the people and animals that rely on it, will thank you.

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Standing Before the Senate to Address the Ocean Plastics Problem http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/17/standing-before-the-senate-to-address-the-ocean-plastics-problem/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/17/standing-before-the-senate-to-address-the-ocean-plastics-problem/#comments Tue, 17 May 2016 15:25:15 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12073

Earlier today, I testified before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee on the problem of ocean plastics and how it negatively affects ocean animals. Ocean plastics are a problem that affects us all. From our fisheries to our beaches to our protected environments—ocean plastics are a cause of concern for all Americans.

The growing tide of ocean pollution is a problem for sea turtles that ingest plastic, sea birds that get tangled in fishing lines and marine mammals that wash ashore with belly’s full of trash.

I’m grateful to the Senate for passing the U.S. Marine Debris Research, Prevention and Reduction Act of 2006, which authorized the creation of the Marine Debris Program (MDP) within the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). The NOAA MDP has been instrumental in informing and catalyzing marine debris research and solutions in the United States and abroad.

In order to stem the tide of ocean plastics, however, more action is required by Congress. In my testimony before the Senate, I urged Congress to:

  • Increase funding for independent research on ocean plastics; and
  • Identify opportunities to partner with industry for sustainable solutions.

I commend the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee for having this public testimony and bringing sorely needed attention to this issue. We hope that this hearing will be just the beginning of concerted action against the problem of ocean plastics, and that together we can work toward a future of trash free seas.

Thank you to the more than 11,000 ocean advocates who joined Ocean Conservancy’s call to action—and sent in letters to their Senators. I was able to deliver YOUR letters to the Senate during my testimony. It was nice knowing that I wasn’t alone, but that all of you were standing with me as I testified before the Senate. Thank you!

Together, with scientists, governments, businesses and YOU—we can push for real solutions that help reduce marine debris and save countless animals that depend on a healthy ocean for their very survival.


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Microplastics in Paradise http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/12/microplastics-in-paradise/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/05/12/microplastics-in-paradise/#comments Thu, 12 May 2016 13:00:50 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=12056

At first glance, the waters of St. John, USVI, are pristine: Rich blues and greens mix in a postcard-ready Caribbean vista while schools of tropical fish dart just below the surface.

But beneath the shimmering turquoise waters lurks a hidden peril: microplastics.

Microplastics—or plastic particles less than five millimeters in size—are an emerging threat to marine ecosystems. These pesky plastics enter the ocean in a number of ways, including washing nylon clothes or using toothpaste or shower gel that has plastic beads. They also come from larger plastics that have broken down due to exposure to sun, sand and waves. Research suggests that as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic are estimated to be circulating the ocean, globally.

Because they’re so tiny, it’s easy to adopt an “out of sight, out of mind” mentality. But these small particles have big consequences. Pollutants like pesticides, PCBs and DDT adhere to microplastics’ surface and can then be ingested by fish, birds and other marine organisms. As plastics are ingested up the food chain, these chemicals accumulate, causing problems for marine predators and potentially humans. Chemical risks aside, consuming plastic is never a good plan—buildup of plastic materials can cause abrasions and digestive blockage in marine organisms.

We know frighteningly little about the long-term impacts and reach of microplastics. Thankfully, organizations worldwide (including Ocean Conservancy!) are looking to change that.

Last week I teamed up with Adventurers and Scientists for Conservation to contribute to their Global Microplastics Initiative. The organization, which pairs the skills of the outdoor adventure community with the vision of scientists worldwide, is compiling a massive, comprehensive dataset on the prevalence of microplastics in aquatic ecosystems.

Sampling conditions could have been worse.

After completing an online training course to learn how to correctly collect samples (always be up current, don’t wear fleeces that might contaminate the sample, don’t open the sample after collection) I was ready to go. Armed with reef-friendly sunscreen, snorkel gear and an assortment of one liter sample bottles, I boarded the Sunshine Daydream charter boat in Cruz Bay harbor.

My guide for the day, Captain Rob, took me to some of the island’s best hidden snorkeling spots. I filled a sample bottle at each stop, carefully marking the coordinates, depth and conditions. As I gazed in awe at the schools of bait fish and vibrant corals, I felt a pang of worry at the impacts microplastics could be having on the reef ecosystem.

After a very long, very awkward conversation with postal workers curious as to why I was shipping so many duct-taped plastic water bottles, I sent my samples off to researcher Abby Barrows in Stonington, Maine. There, the samples will be analyzed to see just how prevalent microplastics are in the waters surrounding St. John.

Each water sample collected brings us one small step closer to quantifying the abundance and determining the impacts of microplastics—and how we can mitigate them. ASC’s database will help inform decision makers about the range of microplastics and provide valuable information that can be used in future research.

Although the issue of microplastics might seem massive, I’m happy to play my part in finding a solution: one water sample at a time.

Learn how you can contribute to ASC’s microplastics initiative, and see how Ocean Conservancy is fighting back against marine debris.

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Introducing the National Aquarium’s 48 Days of Blue http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/introducing-the-national-aquariums-48-days-of-blue/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/introducing-the-national-aquariums-48-days-of-blue/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 17:00:44 +0000 Guest Blogger http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11970

Did you know that more than 70 percent of the Earth’s surface is water? As we celebrate Earth Day today, we want to pay a special tribute to the ocean!

The ocean is almost 4 billion years old. More than just a pleasant attribute, the ocean is responsible for controlling our climate and supporting our continued survival here on Earth. Their mere existence is what separates us from every other planet in our solar system.

In the 48 days between Earth Day (April 22) and World Oceans Day (June 8), help the National Aquarium give something back to our amazing, life-sustaining blue planet!

Every day, the National Aquarium will try to overcome an obstacle facing the ocean by asking us to complete smallconservation challenges.

Going a day without straws will keep 127 school buses worth of plastic from out of our natural spaces. Unplugging from our modern, electronic world for just 20 minutes can save enough energy to brew a cup of coffee.

Making these changes in our daily lives will benefit our own health, improve our communities AND help protect the ocean for future generations.

This movement is about more than just conservation; it’s about connecting a community of change-makers. Whether you’re down the street or continents away, our collective impact is equal, our challenges are similarly difficult and our successes will be felt and celebrated together, loudly!

Let’s not waste another minute. To join the 48 Days of Blue movement (and get your friends on board), click here!

Nabila Chami is the project lead for 48 Days of Blue. As the social media manager for the National Aquarium, she shares stories that connect the online world with our amazing blue planet every day. 


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5 Easy Ways to Keep Our Ocean Trash Free http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/5-easy-ways-to-keep-our-ocean-trash-free/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/04/22/5-easy-ways-to-keep-our-ocean-trash-free/#comments Fri, 22 Apr 2016 13:00:09 +0000 Erin Spencer http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11960

Nothing ruins a sweeping ocean vista like…trash. Not only are piles of plastic an eyesore, they’re seriously harmful to the countless animals who call the ocean home. This Earth Day, take a minute to see how you can decrease your negative impacts on the ocean (and let’s be real, with 71% of the globe covered in water, shouldn’t we be calling this “Ocean Day”, anyway?).

Here at Ocean Conservancy, we’ve been working hard to keep trash off of our beaches and out of our oceans for three decades—but we can’t do it alone. Whether you’re a casual coastal visitor or frequent beach bum, here are five easy things you can do to keep our ocean trash free.

1. Stow it: Be a green boater with OC’s Good Mate program 

Working with the U.S. Coast Guard and Coast Guard Auxiliary with support from the Brunswick Foundation, Ocean Conservancy created Good Mate, a public outreach program that gives you simple, easy-to-follow guidelines for green boating. During this past Cleanup, almost 4,000 boaters traversed 416 miles of waterways removing nearly 83,000 pounds of trash. Check out our Good Mate Manual here.

2. Remove it: Clean up with the International Coastal Cleanup

For the past 30 years, Ocean Conservancy has worked with millions of volunteers all over the world to take action by removing and recording trash during our International Coastal Cleanup. An astounding 560,000 volunteers in 91 countries picked up more than 16 million pounds of trash in our 2014 cleanup, and the results from the 2015 Cleanup (to be published in May 2016) are even more staggering! Now, you can track your impact using out Clean Swell app, too!

3. Tap it: Drink water in a reusable bottle 

Americans buy more bottled water than any other nation worldwide, resulting in 29 billion water bottles consumed every year. And with only one out of every six water bottles ending up in the recycling bin, it’s no surprise that volunteers around the world found almost a million plastic beverage bottles during the 2015 International Coastal Cleanup. Stay hydrated and be kind to the ocean by reaching for a reusable bottle instead.

4. Butt out: Use an ashtray so cigarette butts don’t reach waterways and the ocean  

In our 2014 clean up, cigarette butts were the top item collected: Volunteers picked up over 2 million of them around the world! These butts not only clog up our beaches, they also contain thousands of little plastic particles that end up in the ocean (and inside ocean animals!)

5. Recycle it: Go the extra mile to sort and separate items that can be recycled 

The first step to perfecting your recycling routine is understanding what’s what. Different plastic items are made of different kinds of plastic; some kinds can go in your kitchen’s recycling bin, others can be dropped off at a nearby store, while some are pretty tough to recycle period. Crack the code by looking at the number inside the recycling symbol on your label or container, and check with your local municipality on their respective recycling guidelines. Download our guide to help demystify the recycling process.

Have any more ideas for how to keep our ocean trash free? Tell us in the comments below! And don’t forget to learn more about our Trash Free Seas program here at Ocean Conservancy.


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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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Victory! Microbeads Banned in the U.S. http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/08/victory-microbeads-banned-in-the-u-s/ http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/2016/01/08/victory-microbeads-banned-in-the-u-s/#comments Fri, 08 Jan 2016 15:00:54 +0000 Nick Mallos http://blog.oceanconservancy.org/?p=11315

2016 has barely started, and we can already share a huge win for our ocean. Thanks to the support of ocean advocates like you, Congress has backed a bill banning the use of microbeads in personal care products. And just this week, President Obama signed this bill into law.

Microbeads might be tiny, but this legislation is huge. The new law means companies will phase out the sale of products containing microbeads over the next two years, and stop making personal care products with microbeads altogether by July 1, 2017.

These small plastic particles have been a staple ingredient in everyday products we use like body washes, facial scrubs and toothpastes. Since they’re too small to be filtered out by water treatment plants, they flow straight from our sinks to the ocean and into the mouths and gills of sea creatures around the world.

The ban on microbeads is a big step towards stopping plastics from entering our ocean.

This new legislation shows a growing bipartisan dedication of lawmakers to create a more sustainable ocean—a mission we can all get behind. We are proud of those who served as a voice for our ocean in Congress, and we hope this is just the start of more ocean legislation to come.

Let’s take this opportunity to thank our lawmakers for their support of this bill, and remind them how important it is to keep pushing for a healthier, more resilient ocean.

Thank you for your support. Here’s to many more ocean victories in 2016!

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