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The Blog Aquatic

News, opinions, photos and facts from Ocean Conservancy

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How Much Plastic Trash Clogs the Ocean? Exhibit Offers Insights

Posted On August 3, 2012 by

How do you explain the magnitude of the ocean trash problem, particularly to people in a landlocked country like Switzerland? Put a representative sampling right in front of them.

Check out this video of a crew setting up an installation that’s part of the fantastic exhibit “Out to Sea? The Plastic Garbage Project” at the Museum für Gestaltung in Zurich, Switzerland (soon going on tour). You can see it took some time. Unfortunately, every 15 seconds this same amount of trash enters the ocean, according to estimates from the United Nations Environment Programme. Continue reading »

How to Make a Good Day on the Water Great: 5 Tips to Reduce Trash

Posted On August 2, 2012 by

Love clean water? Pick up as you go to keep it that way! Credit: JohnCramerPhotography flickr user

With record temperatures coloring the weather map red across much of the country this summer, many of us are seeking relief on lakes, rivers, bays and the ocean. This past weekend, I beat the heat by floating blissfully down the Shenandoah River at Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia in an inner tube.

But right away I saw that my fellow tubers and I weren’t the only things being carried downstream. Around me bobbed all kinds of trash heading for the Potomac River, the Chesapeake Bay and eventually the Atlantic Ocean. Wind and ocean currents might even carry this trash to the North Pacific Gyre, or Pacific Garbage Patch.

My friend Steve and I made a fun and friendly competition of spotting and cleaning up Styrofoam cups, food wrappers, red-and-white fishing corks and even someone’s lost Croc. Continue reading »

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.

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How to help an injured animal

Posted On July 9, 2012 by

Note: After receiving questions from readers, I have written a follow-up post here.

While on vacation, I came across a crab entangled in a fishing net at a local, beachside restaurant.  My time working with crustaceans in science laboratories and in the field gave me the necessary familiarity with their movements and behaviors to handle the animal without hurting it or myself. Armed with this knowledge, I quickly and carefully untangled the piece of fishing net that had wound up tightly on the crab and placed him gently back on the local beach.

Without the proper qualifications, attempting to help a hurt animal in the wild could result in further injury. So what should you do if you encounter an entangled animal at the beach? Continue reading »

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5 Questions with Marine Scientist Ellen Prager on Sex, Drugs and Sea Slime

Posted On July 5, 2012 by

A male jawfish with a mouthful of eggs. Photo by Steven Kovacs.

Ellen Prager, formerly chief scientist for the world’s only underwater ocean research station in Key Largo, Florida, knows a lot about the ocean and the species that call it home. But even she learned some surprising new facts while writing her latest book, “Sex, Drugs, and Sea Slime: The Oceans’ Oddest Creatures and Why They Matter.

We talked to Prager about this provocative new book and the surprises she found during her research.

1. How did you land on the title for your book? Continue reading »

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What Does Your Trash Say About You?

Posted On July 4, 2012 by

Volunteers pull a tire out of the water during Ocean Conservancy's 2009 International Coastal Cleanup in Athens, Greece. -- © Gerasimos Domenikos / Aurora Photos

Some people say “we are what we eat,” but maybe what we throw away is just as telling.

In profiling the film “Raw Material” about the garbage pickers of Athens, writer Jennifer Hattam points out how life has changed for these scavengers now that the entire country is facing an economic crisis:

In the shadow of the Acropolis, they set off before dawn. Men and boys driving rusty trucks, pushing heavy hand-carts, towing wagons behind battered motorcycles. As the city slowly comes to life, they are already well into their day’s work, scouring alleys and Dumpsters for old box-spring mattresses, appliances, car parts, anything they can salvage and sell at a scrap yard for a few dollars a day.

Many Athens residents have been struggling to get by since economic and political crisis erupted in Greece, threatening to engulf much of Europe. But the estimated 80,000 Athenians who collect and process scrap in the city’s informal economy were eking out their meager livings back when the rest of the city was still living large. Continue reading »

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Reduce Trash at Your July 4th Bash

Posted On July 3, 2012 by

This Fourth of July, celebrate your independence from unnecessary trash. Credit: flickr user Thomas Hawk

It’s time for the great American barbecues, picnics and parties that—along with patriotic music and fireworks—create great Independence Day memories.

Food, drink, décor and fireworks can mean a lot of trash—trash that often ends up in the ocean. That’s right, even if you live hundreds of miles from the ocean, trash from your area can travel down waterways to the sea, fouling the water and endangering wildlife.

How big is the problem? Last year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, volunteers picked up enough food packaging alone for one person to get takeout breakfast, lunch and dinner for the next 858 years.

So if you’re planning to entertain on July 4th, think red, white and especially blue: Keep these tips in mind for a clean and healthy ocean: Continue reading »