Sav­ing the oceans

You don’t have to live by the sea­side to help

The Covington News - - AGRICULTURE & OUTDOORS -

Earth is a re­mark­able planet — one that is roughly 70 per­cent ocean. Sci­en­tists know more about space than they do about the ocean depths and the in­hab­i­tants of un­der­wa­ter ecosys­tems.

What is known, how­ever, is that even though the oceans are vast, they are still af­fected by hu­man in­ter­ven­tion and the trash peo­ple gen­er­ate.

Marine life can be harmed by de­bris and trash in the world’s oceans. De­spite the best ef­forts to safe­guard against ocean dump­ing and dis­carded items end­ing up in the wa­ter, the re­al­iza­tion is it does hap­pen reg­u­larly. Plas­tic refuse is one of the com­mon neme­ses to marine an­i­mals. Many ev­ery­day items re­sem­ble food sources for an­i­mals and can be eaten with dire re­sults. For ex­am­ple, the plas­tic pel­lets that are melted down to make larger plas­tic items re­sem­ble the eggs of fish and are eaten by birds. Th­ese small plas­tic par­ti­cles have been found in the stom­achs of 63 of the world’s ap­prox­i­mately 250 species of seabirds. Plas­tic sand­wich bags look like jel­ly­fish and can be swal­lowed by sea tur­tles, get­ting caught in their throats or di­ges­tive sys­tems. Many curious an­i­mals, such as seals, get tan­gled up in net­ting or plas­tic soda rings and suf­fo­cate.

But plas­tic isn’t the only of­fender. The Cen­ter for Marine Con­ser­va­tion iden­ti­fies other dirty items that cause prob­lems in the oceans. Th­ese in­clude: cig­a­rette butts, pa­per pieces, plas­tic foam, glass pieces, and metal bev­er­age cans. Not only can all of th­ese items harm marine life, they can also wreak havoc on boat en­gines, pro­pel­lers, and be dan­ger­ous to those who swim or en­gage in other recre­ational ac­tiv­i­ties in the wa­ter.

For th­ese rea­sons and many oth­ers, for more than 20 years the Ocean Con­ser­vancy has been help­ing com­mu­ni­ties, both here and abroad, to clean up de­bris from the shore to ben­e­fit peo­ple and wildlife. Over the past 21 years, a to­tal of 6,600,000 mil- lion vol­un­teers have picked up al­most 116,000,000 pounds of de­bris across 211,460 miles of coast­line. That’s more de­bris than the com­bined weight of 258 Stat­ues of Lib­erty and more mileage than eight trips around the world. Each year the Ocean Con­ser­vancy hosts an In­ter­na­tional Ocean Cleanup, where vol­un­teers from around the world do­nate their time to work in their com­mu­ni­ties to­wards a shared global vi­sion of cleaner, health­ier oceans and wa­ter­ways, where peo­ple and wildlife are free from the dan­gers of marine de­bris. This year they are an­tic­i­pat­ing 500,000 vol­un­teers will turn out to col­lect de­bris and doc­u­ment what they find along shore­lines and un­der­wa­ter in 100 coun­tries. The 2007 event takes place on Septem­ber 15.

But one day a year is not enough to pro­tect the oceans. Peo­ple must do their part year­round to safe­guard marine life and pro­tect the en­vi­ron­ment. Here is what the Ocean Con­ser­vancy says you can do to help:

• Clean up your trash, even when not near the wa­ter. It’s amaz­ing that a vast ma­jor­ity of trash in our wa­ter­ways comes from land-based ac­tiv­i­ties. Even trash dis­carded miles in­land can make it to the ocean, car­ried by the rain and the winds.

• Re­trieve your monofil­a­ment fish­ing line. Don’t leave fish­ing line in the wa­ter and re­move oth­ers’ when you find it, be­ing care­ful not to tug on snagged lines that could be caught on im­por­tant habi­tat be­low the sur­face.

• Con­tain and prop­erly clean spills when boat­ing. Use oil­ab­sorbent rags or even di­a­pers to clean spills. Ocean Con­ser­vancy’s Good Mate pro­gram can pro­vide you with plenty of tips for re­duc­ing im­pact when on the wa­ter.

• Never pour oil, paint, an­tifreeze, or other house­hold chem­i­cal into an open sewer.

• Don’t use fer­til­iz­ers, pes­ti­cides, and her­bi­cides that can wash into open wa­ters. Use lemon juice, vine­gar, and bak­ing soda for house­hold clean­ing.

• Use cloth bags for gro­ceries. Take them with you when you shop to re­duce the num­ber of plas­tic bags you use. In ad­di­tion to be­ing ugly, plas­tic bags can choke marine wildlife when mis­taken for food.

• Prop­erly dis­pose of used bat­ter­ies and elec­tron­ics. Use your lo­cal re­cy­cling cen­ter. Elec­tron­ics leach harm­ful chem­i­cals into the en­vi­ron­ment. Once there, th­ese toxic pol­lu­tants can af­fect the en­vi­ron­ment for decades.

Con­tact your elected rep­re­sen­ta­tives. Let them know you care about the ef­fects of marine de­bris and that you are watch­ing what they do to stop it. Then, vote for can­di­dates who sup­port marine de­bris pre­ven­tion.

Metro Creative Ser­vices

Earth first: The ocean plays a vi­tal role in the life of the planet. As such, mea­sures need to be taken to pro­tect it from harm­ful pol­lu­tion.

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