Saving the oceans
You don’t have to live by the seaside to help
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.
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.