Project AWARE

English: project aware logo

Image via Wikipedia

From time to time I like to write about what is going on with other amazing organizations around the world. Today I am highlighting the work of Project AWARE. As they like to say, the Foundation is “a growing movement of scuba divers protecting the ocean planet – one dive at a time.” One of their major focuses is marine debris. Marine debris is a serious problem and effects us all. Did you know that NOAA stated in December that debris from the earthquake in Japan is making its way to Hawai’i already? The folks involved with Project AWARE are ‘diving for debris‘ and not only removing it from the ocean but are also collecting data on what and where they find debris to be used to effect policy and change in the long term. Keep up the great work!

What children have to say about marine debris

I just think this review of what children from New York City have to say about beach pollution aka marine debris is too “right on” not to share. These quotes come directly from an article on the Ocean Conservancy’s website. Check out the entire article for some wonderful crayola images the kids did too!

Fourth-graders in New York City conducted cleanups at a local beach and tallied every item they found on Ocean Conservancy’s data card, an experience shared by hundreds of thousands of people around the world every year during Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup.

The young citizen scientists learned about the myriad ways marine debris threatens ocean health, and created graphs to show the sources of these man-made items.

They shared their findings with us, and we’d like to share them with you. Here are just a few of their observations, presented just as they’ve written them:

Understand marine debris ASAP

Oh no! It is that moment when I am finally relaxed and settled into my chair at the edge of the water and I look up from my book to see a plastic wrapper whizzing into the sea. I take a look around and do not see anyone running to grab it so I get up and run for the trash. Now don’t get me wrong, I understand that trash falls out of our hands from time to time. That is why I am one of those people that tend to make the extra effort to do the right thing and pick up after someone else, I hope someone would do the same for me. Basically, I have an active imagination. I see the future of this plastic bag as having a relaxing trip to the open sea where it floats on the bright and sunny surface only to be mistaken for a nutritious and delicious jelly by a leatherback sea turtle. Only it gets lodged in the turtle’s throat. It turns out to potentially suffocate the animal and may lead to his eventual death. Yes, that is where my imagination takes me … Unfortunately it is all too much a reality. Watch this clip of an Ecuadorean team of scientists trying to save this green sea turtle who was too weak to survive since his gut was full of plastic.

This plastic bag and other man made trash items that sea creatures commonly mistake for food are collectively known as marine debris. Items may include plastic bags, cigarette butts, fishing gear, bottles, cans, caps, lids, you name it … it is marine debris. The marine debris doesn’t just come from pieces that fly out of our hands while at the beach. The trash that ends up in our ocean can come from drains and sewers on our street. The ocean is the largest body of water and a part of the world wide watershed.

One of the most alarming illustrations of how much marine debris has ended up in our ocean ecosystem is the presence of the Pacific Garbage Patch. In the northern Pacific Ocean (in between Hawaii and San Francisco) there is an island of marine debris larger than the size of Texas that is held together by a centrifugal force of the ocean current known as the North Pacific Gyre. You cannot see this patch from a satellite image because it is simply suspended particles of shoes, toys, plastics bags, wrappers, tooth brushes and many bottles.

Marine debris is everywhere and is quite a nuisance for life in the oceans. In the summer when we are all enjoying a few relaxing days on the beach or on the boat let’s do our part and “leave only footprints and take only pictures”, ok?

ADDITIONAL RESOURCES:

Learn more about marine debris from the short video by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation.

Also, here is an excellent example of what is being done to acknowledge the issue of marine debris and taking the effort to help eliminate it. Thanks, New Hampshire!

Here is a nice site that outlines what you can do to reduce your plastic footprint.

Image (c) wildeducation.org (leatherback sea turtle) and coffeencrafts.blogspot.com (trash)