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5 Poisonous Ocean Animals to Stay Away From

Swimming beneath the waves is a sea of creatures even more unique and wild than you could ever imagine—fish that look like horses, whales that are 100 feet long and sharks living to more than 400 years old.  But, what about those ocean animals that have adapted to use poison to defend themselves against predators?

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Before we begin today’s exploration, let’s lay some ground work. Venom is injected, but poison is ingested. Venomous animals are ones that produce specific toxic substances that can be injected into their foes. Poisonous animals, on the other hand, coat part or all of their body in a toxic substance, so they’re harmful to touch or eat.

Today, we are going to explore these five poisonous ocean animals. Dive in with us …

Pufferfish

One pufferfish carries enough poison to kill 30 adult humans! Almost all pufferfish contain tetrodotoxin, a substance that makes them bad-tasting and often deadly to fish. Tetrodotoxin is also deadly to humans and is up to 1,200 times more toxic than cyanide.

Puffer fishPuffer fish
© Jon Churchill

Nudibranch

Commonly known as sea slugs, nudibranchs are a group of shell-less marine mollusks. They live in shallow tropical ocean waters. There are more than 3,000 species of nudibranch. Nudibranchs absorb and store toxins from their food, making themselves toxic to potential predators. Scientists aren’t certain how nudibranchs survive after ingesting so many toxins, but one thing is sure: they have a great defense mechanism.

Nudibranch in the oceanNudibranch in the ocean
© Peetj Vaneeden

Boxfish

The boxfish is related to the pufferfish—although not as poisonous. The boxfish uses its poison to help defend itself against predators—it would rather not become the predator’s next meal. The boxfish excretes a toxin into the water, poisoning the water and any marine life in the area.

Boxfish among coralsBoxfish among corals
© Stacy Groff

Flamboyant Cuttlefish

The flamboyant cuttlefish is a member of the class Cephalopoda (which also includes octopuses). These flamboyant cuttlefish are native to sandy habitats in the Indo-Pacific Ocean and are relatively small in size, reaching only three inches in length. These colorful, captivating cephalopods will steal your heart, but beware, they are also poisonous. Their colorful and bold exteriors may be a warning sign to predators. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, research by Mark Norman with the Museum Victoria in Queensland, Australia, has shown the flamboyant cuttlefish’s toxin to be as lethal as that of the  blue-ringed octopus. That’s quite impressive, considering the blue-ringed octopus is one of the most toxic animals in the ocean.

Cuttlefish in the oceanCuttlefish in the ocean
© Fenkieandreas/Fotolia

Blue Ringed Octopus

Speaking of… the blue ringed octopus is an absolute overachiever—it is both poisonous and venomous! If an animal somehow avoids being injected with venom when it attacks and tries to eat the blue ringed octopus, the animal will learn the hard way that the meat is poisonous. Just another reason to leave the blue-ringed octopus alone!

Blue Ringed Octopus in the oceanBlue Ringed Octopus in the ocean
© David Evison/Fotolia

Poisonous versus Venomous

Now that you know the difference between poisonous and venomous, here is a fun game you can play. Can you spot inaccuracies as you are doing research, web surfing or reading news articles? It happens more than you know. Many, many times the terms are used interchangeably, but they are not the same. A lionfish isn’t poisonous, and a pufferfish isn’t venomous.

The post 5 Poisonous Ocean Animals to Stay Away From appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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10 Ink-credible Octopus Photos

October 8 is World Octopus Day, which is the perfect excuse to appreciate these unbelievable cephalopods.

To be fair, if you know us, you know we don’t need a reason to celebrate octopuses. You can make every day World Octopus Day by learning more about octopuses on our blog, with posts including:

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For now, here are 10 fantastic photos of octopuses. Enjoy!

Purple octopus on sea floorPurple octopus on sea floor
© Grant Thomas/ Ocean Image Bank

White octopus on sea floorWhite octopus on sea floor
© Nick Hobgood

Octopus tentaclesOctopus tentacles
© Joe Parks

Multicolored octopus Multicolored octopus
© Rickard Zerpe

A baby octopus moves across the seafloor as ROV Deep Discoverer explores Veatch Canyon.A baby octopus moves across the seafloor as ROV Deep Discoverer explores Veatch Canyon.
© NOAA

Octopus swims in deep oceanOctopus swims in deep ocean
© NOAA

Spotted Octopus in oceanSpotted Octopus in ocean
© Rickard Zerpe

Light blue octopus along sea floorLight blue octopus along sea floor
© NOAA

Octopus on sea floorOctopus on sea floor
© Daniel Kwok

On World Octopus Day, help keep our ocean trash-free by telling Congress to support legislation that cuts down on ocean plastics.

The post 10 Ink-credible Octopus Photos appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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The REDUCE Act Rewards Reuse Rather Than Waste

For decades we have witnessed plastic pollution flowing into our ocean. It has wreaked havoc on marine life by polluting the ocean and coastal habitats that are their home. Over half of all plastics produced are designed to be used once and then thrown away. So it is no surprise that single-use plastics continue to dominate the list of most collected items from beaches and waterways during Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup(ICC).

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The solution to this growing problem is clear:

When it comes to plastics, we need to make less and reuse more.

Unfortunately, decades of government subsidies to the fossil fuel industry have hindered efforts to reuse and recycle. They make it cheaper to produce new (or “virgin”) plastics rather than recycling plastic waste already created.

The production of new plastics also contributes to our growing climate crisis. By 2030, greenhouse gas emissions from plastic production are expected to reach 1.3 billion tons. That’s equal to 300 coal-fired power plants. In fact, with nearly 99% of plastics made from fossil fuel-derived chemicals, the fossil fuel industry is counting on making more single-use plastics to make up for losses in demand for fossil fuels as the world shifts to renewable energy resources. We cannot address our climate crisis without tackling plastic pollution and over-production.

To keep our ocean plastic-free, we need to incentivize reuse and recycling rather than waste.

A fee on virgin plastic resin for single-use plastics will help do just that. New legislation, the Rewarding Efforts to Decrease Unrecycled Contaminants in Ecosystems (REDUCE) Act, led by Senator Whitehouse (D-RI) and Representative Suozzi (D-NY) would establish a $0.20 per pound fee on virgin plastic for single-use plastic items like carry-out bags, bottles and packaging by 2024. This legislation would apply only to those single-use plastics that most commonly escape the waste stream and that pollute beaches and our ocean.

This fee would serve as a long overdue market correction that moves us towards a circular economy—a model for transformation so that waste is eliminated and resources are recirculated.

It would also make plastic producers pay for the waste their products and packaging create, a financial burden that currently falls to taxpayers.

This legislation could potentially be included in the upcoming reconciliation package in Congress to fund greatly needed investments in infrastructure, like waste collection and recycling.

Take action on plastic pollution today: Tell Congress to support the REDUCE Act and make it less desirable to create new plastics.

In a sea of solutions, a fee on virgin single-use plastics is a critical tool in transitioning to a circular economy and keeping our beaches, waterways and ocean plastic-free. We cannot afford to wait to take action to protect our ocean from plastics.

The post The REDUCE Act Rewards Reuse Rather Than Waste appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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Tackling Plastic Pollution in California

This blog was updated on October 7, 2021 to reflect the passage of all four bills.

It’s not hard to fall in love with the ocean in California. You can drive for 600+ miles with endless ocean vistas on the Pacific Coast Highway or wake up early in the morning to explore tidepools teaming with life. You can see elephant seals and sea otters enjoying the same coastal habitats you return to again and again. It’s not surprising that most Californians are concerned about plastics polluting the beaches and ocean they love.

Luckily, the state is making big strides this year to tackle plastic pollution in our ocean. Four bills were recently passed and signed into law by Governor Newsom that will reduce waste and reform recycling. This represents a big win for our ocean and the incredible natural wonders in the Golden State.

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Curbing Recycling Exports

Plastic waste generated in the U.S., particularly California, frequently gets shipped overseas for disposal. While this waste often is intended to be recycled, too often it is landfilled, incinerated or sometimes simply (and illegally) dumped. Yet, here in California and throughout the U.S., exported plastic waste is frequently categorized as having been recycled. This practice leads to a lot of mismanaged plastic waste ending up in our ocean, yet it gets counted as if it was recycled.

Last year Ocean Conservancy released a study that showed how much the U.S. is outsourcing our massive “plastic footprint” to developing countries.

The legislation signed into law this week on recycling exports ensures that only plastics that can actually be recycled by the importing country would constitute “recycling” and count towards California’s waste diversion goals. All other exported plastic wastes will be considered “disposal.”

Ensuring Truth in Recycling

Figuring out what should end up in trash cans and what should end up in recycling bins is no easy task. Many of us rely on the “chasing arrows” label on packaging to help us make those decisions. However, many of the products that feature this symbol aren’t recyclable in our local communities. That can lead to a lot of waste ending up in our recycling bins that can confuse and contaminate our recycling systems, which ultimately makes recycling more expensive and less efficient. This also makes it harder for items that are readily recyclable to get a new life as another product.

A new law focused on recycling labeling prohibits the use of the word “recyclable”, the use of the “chasing arrows” symbol or any other suggestion that a material is recyclable on unrecyclable products made or sold in California. In most California municipalities, this will reduce contamination in the recycling system, lower costs for local governments and taxpayers and empower consumers to make informed purchasing choices based on actual product recyclability. This will encourage producers to make sustainable packaging choices and support companies looking for a steady supply of materials to invest in recycling and reprocessing facilities in California.

Reducing Food Ware Waste

If you’re like me, you ordered a lot more takeout this past year. Along with the delicious food delivered to our homes often comes unwanted plastic utensils, straws and other food ware items. Unfortunately, food ware makes up 60% of the most commonly found items on beaches and waterways around the world at Ocean Conservancy’s annual International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Much of it isn’t recyclable: Our latest ICC report found that 69% of the most commonly collected items over the last 35 years of the ICC are effectively unrecyclable, and of these, nearly half are food and beverage related items.

This new legislation on single-use food ware will significantly reduce the amount of food service waste in California. It requires single-use food ware like cutlery and straws to be available only by request at restaurants or on delivery apps. That will ensure that you are getting only the food ware you need and reduces plastic waste generated from takeout. It also might eliminate the need for that extra drawer in your kitchen that’s filled with sauce packets and plastic knives you know you’ll never use but simply cannot toss into the waste bin.

Do Not Flush

Disposable wipes are not flushable. Instead, when flushed, these wipes shed countless numbers of microfibers that pollute our waterways and ocean while simultaneously wreaking havoc on our sewer systems. This results in a gross phenomenon known as “fatbergs.” These balls of grease and wipes can block sewer pipes and result in sewage overflows that pollute waterways and our ocean. New legislation addressing disposable wipes will ensure these wipes are labeled with “do not flush” and ensure that there is no advertising on the package that promotes disposing them in the toilet. This will help educate consumers and alleviate serious problems that can arise when these wipes end up in our sewage system.

We’re excited about California’s continued commitment to reduce plastic pollution and protect our ocean. With the passage of these bills in California, we get one step closer to a truly circular economy that eliminates plastic waste.

More work remains, of course, and we look forward to working with our allies in the state to reduce new, single-use plastic production, hold producers responsible for the disposal costs associated with their products and packaging and ensure waste is properly disposed of or recycled. Luckily, we have incredible advocates like you who will help us each step of the way to create a healthier future for our ocean.

The post Tackling Plastic Pollution in California appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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5 Venomous Ocean Animals You Need to See

Ocean animals have evolved all kinds of different ways to protect themselves from threats. Some use camouflage to blend into their surroundings. Others have hard shells that keep the animals (relatively) safe inside. And many others rely on toxins to dissuade potential predators from bothering them.

Today we’re sharing some of our ocean’s most notorious venomous residents. Before we get started, a quick reminder: venomous animals are ones that produce specific toxic substances that can be injected into their foes. Venomous is different than poisonous: venom is injected, but poison is ingested. Learn more about the difference between venomous and poisonous.

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There are more venomous animals in the ocean than you might think—although most pose no harm to humans as long as you give them their space! All octopuses and cuttlefish, as well as some squid, are venomous, and mostly use their venom to hunt and kill their prey. Jellyfish can also be venomous, and use a harpoon-like stinging cells called a nematocysts to inject their prey. There are also over 1,200 venomous fish in the ocean.

Here are five venomous ocean animals to know:

Lionfish

Lionfish in the ocean waterLionfish in the ocean water
© Umeed Mistry / Ocean Image Bank

Distinguished by their bold stripes and spines, lionfish are an invasive species in the Western Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Their spines contain a strong neurotoxin that can cause extreme pain and swelling if injected.

Blue-ringed octopus

Blue Ringed OctopusBlue Ringed Octopus
© Angell Williams / Flickr

The blue-ringed octopus’ venom is 1,000 times more powerful than cyanide. This golf-ball sized powerhouse packs enough venom to kill 26 humans within minutes. It’s no surprise that it’s recognized as one of the most dangerous animals in the ocean.

Australian box jellyfish

A Box Jellyfish swims in the oceanA Box Jellyfish swims in the ocean
© Guido Gautsch

The tiny Australian box jellyfish is considered the most venomous animal in the sea—their sting can cause cardiac arrest, paralysis or death in humans in just a few minutes. Let’s just say you want to avoid it.

Sea snake

Sea Snake in the oceanSea Snake in the ocean
© Tracey Jennings / Ocean Image Bank

Sea snakes are more toxic than many venomous snakes found on land. Fortunately, they typically do not bite unless provoked and their short fangs make it difficult to bite through thick fabrics.

Stonefish

A stonefish in the oceanA stonefish in the ocean
© Kimberly Jeffries / Ocean Image Bank

The stonefish holds the title of most venomous fish in the sea. Stonefish have 13 spines lining its back that release venom under pressure. Stings result in terrible pain, swelling, necrosis (tissue death) and even death.

These are just a few of the many venomous critters in our ocean. Looking to learn about more toxic ocean animals? Learn about the poisonous AND venomous striped pyjama squid and the poisonous sea pig.

The post 5 Venomous Ocean Animals You Need to See appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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What You Need to Know About the Oil Spill in Huntington Beach, California

Oil began seeping into the ocean on Friday night. By Sunday, October 3, a full-blown crisis was underway in Huntington Beach, California, as over 125,000 gallons of crude began to wash up on shore. We are now seeing the terrible images and videos and hearing the devastating stories coming out of California—dying and dead fish and birds coated with oil, tar balls on shores, oily surf rolling onto our beloved beaches. There is a terrible sense of déjà vu for many Californians like me who have experienced repeated oil disasters up and down this magnificent coastline.

From the grounding of the Exxon Valdez to the BP Deepwater Horizon explosion, Ocean Conservancy has learned how critical it is to move quickly to safely plug this breach, mobilize local and regional resources to minimize the immediate ecological impacts and hold the responsible parties accountable for the ecological and economic damage.

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Oil spill impacts now. And later.  

While we are very much in the early days of this disaster, much is at risk. California beaches are world-renowned, and the kelp forests and associated marine wildlife—from fish to birds to marine mammals—are iconic.  

The BP Deepwater Horizon experience taught us that when toxic oil is released at the bottom of the ocean, as happened here, it can impact the entire ocean ecosystem, from seafloor habitats to coastal wetlands. As the oil rises to the surface and moves to shore, it can impact a wide range of species including plankton, invertebrates, fish, sea turtles and marine mammals. Acute effects are most obvious in the images of oiled birds and dead fish now in the headlines, but long-lasting, chronic effects of oil pollution are common as well. A decade after Deepwater Horizon and 30 years after Exxon Valdez, ecological impacts continue from both.  

This oil spill is developing rapidly, and what we know so far is far less than what we don’t yet know. But one thing is certain—the ocean and the communities impacted will need our help for a long time to come.  

What You Can Do 

Support local cleanup efforts
While you may feel compelled to get out on the beach to help, please stay off the beach and out of the water for now. We need to let the professionals take charge of what is a dangerous situation—oil contains toxic chemicals harmful to people and marine life alike. Please follow local expert guidance for ways that you can safely assist in cleanup efforts. In particular, if you see injured wildlife, please resist the temptation to rescue the animal and instead contact the authorities at 877-823-6926. Please also consider donating to frontline efforts that can use your funding to pay for vital equipment and experts to undertake wildlife rescues and other vital activities. A good place to start is with efforts led by the City of Huntington Beach.  

Hold the polluters responsible
This pipeline is owned by Amplify Energy Corporation out of Houston, Texas. According to U.S. law, Amplify is responsible for the costs of containment, cleanup and damages to natural resources, including lost uses such as fishing, surfing and swimming. Therefore, it is critical that local, regional and national organizations rigorously document the environmental, economic and social damage from this event to accurately quantify Amplify’s responsibility in dollars and cents. While Amplify has reportedly shut off and patched the pipeline, the cause for the spill still remains unclear. This raises a red flag about the structural integrity of both this pipeline and other offshore oil infrastructure off America’s coasts. That is why it is likely you will see a growing chorus of voices in the coming days to end all offshore drilling for oil and gas.
 

Call for ambitious policies to tackle the climate crisis
This oil spill is another tragic reminder that we must act swiftly to transition ourselves off fossil fuels and secure a clean and renewable energy future. The climate crisis poses an existential threat to our planet, and business-as-usual is no longer an option. Californians have experienced far too many oil spills, from the Santa Barbara oil spill in 1969 and the Cusco Buson spill in 2007 to the Refugio oil spill in 2015 and now the Huntington spill today. The evidence is clear—offshore oil and gas development is a dangerous and risky business with far-reaching consequences for our ocean and the planet. We must prevent any new offshore oil and gas activity and accelerate a just and equitable transition to clean energy alternatives. Taking this bold step would help prevent another offshore oil tragedy like this and help mitigate the climate crisis. This new catastrophe shows we don’t have a moment to waste.
 

The post What You Need to Know About the Oil Spill in Huntington Beach, California appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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We Need to Clean Up Our Recycling Crisis

This weekend we will join volunteers around the world who are cleaning up their neighborhoods, beaches and local waterways. Doing a cleanup is always an eye-opening activity where you are up close and personal, seeing the amount and impact of trash in the places we call home. You see items you recognize from your everyday life like straws or plastic cutlery littering the natural spaces you care about. It can change the way you use plastic in your homes and lead to a deeper commitment to the ocean.

Similarly, the data volunteers collect during the International Costal Cleanup (ICC) can help us see the magnitude of the problem of ocean plastic. We can identify trends and influence policy that helps stop plastic pollution at the source. Today we released the 2021 ICC Report which revealed that 69% of the most commonly collected items over the last 35 years of the ICC are effectively unrecyclable.

Of these unrecyclable items, roughly half were food related. This includes takeout containers, cup lids, plastic cutlery and more. Takeout has increased during the pandemic, and many people don’t know how to dispose of those containers. Our report found 71% of Americans ordered takeout or delivery between one to three times a week, but less than half could correctly identify which types of food ware items could be recycled.

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Much of our takeout food comes in containers that are not recyclable. For instance, 46% of Americans reported receiving their takeout in expanded polystyrene (foam) clamshell containers and 39% got them with clear plastic lids and black plastic bottoms. Neither of these items is recyclable in the majority of communities across the country, but many Americans believe they are, understandably so—they’re all forms of plastics and all have the classic “chasing arrows” symbol on them.

However, containers with clear plastic lids and black plastic bottoms are problematic. Waste sorting systems cannot recognize the color of black plastic, rendering them generally unrecyclable. Yet 63% of Americans believed that the black plastics could be recycled. Polystyrene (foam) clamshell containers, long a source of environmental concern because of difficulties in breaking them down, were believed by 33% of Americans to be recyclable.

These issues are not the fault of the people who receive these containers. Most of us rely on the “chasing arrows” label on our packaging to help us make those decisions. However, many of the products that feature this symbol aren’t recyclable in our local communities, making it confusing for people to sort out what goes into the recycle bin. And this confusion can cause a big problem for our ocean. It means we’re producing a lot of waste that isn’t being properly discarded.

One solution is clear: To stop the flow of plastics entering our waters, we need to reduce the amount of single-use plastic being produced. But, we also need to make sure the plastic waste we do produce isn’t destined for landfills or our ocean.

Luckily, there are solutions and many people—like you and all of us at Ocean Conservancy—who want change. One in three Americans surveyed would be willing to subscribe to a local low-cost reusable takeout-container return program. There is large support for bans of single-use items, and 60% Americans would support local ordinances that improve recyclability standards for takeout containers. Together, we can work to ensure that when we order delicious takeout food it comes without plastic that can pollute our ocean.

You can take action now to drastically improve recycling systems in the U.S., as only dramatic improvements will move us towards the more circular economy that our ocean needs. First and foremost, we need aggressive recycled content standards in place to incentivize more and improved recycling. By requiring manufacturers to include more recycled materials in their products, we can drive demand for materials that actually can be recycled. You can help make this possible by showing your support for the Break Free From Plastic Pollution Act. This important legislation includes a mandate for plastic producers to use more recycled materials in their products. Together, we can urge governments and corporations to step up to truly stem the tide of plastics into our ocean.

You can also join us on September 18 for the kickoff of the 2021 ICC. We are inviting ocean lovers to #ConnectAndCollect with us. It is an opportunity to show your “dev-ocean” and reconnect with your loved ones. Find out how you can do small-group cleanups using the Clean Swell® app or at community cleanup events found on our website. 

The post We Need to Clean Up Our Recycling Crisis appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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Where are the World’s Plastic Pollution Hotspots?

In just a few days on September 18, hundreds of thousands of concerned citizen scientists will turn out to clean up their local beach or waterway during the International Coastal Cleanup (ICC). Ocean Conservancy has compiled the data collected during this global volunteer effort on behalf of ocean health since the ICC’s start in 1986. Now, a new collaboration between Ocean Conservancy, PADI AWARE Foundation and scientists at CSIRO has resulted in the first global map of plastic hotspots. We now have new insights into how all of us can contribute to ocean plastic solutions.

Published in the journal Global Environmental Change, this research combined information from 22,508 ICC beach and land cleanups across 116 countries from 2011-2017 with 7,290 PADI AWARE underwater cleanups across 118 countries from 2011-2018. PADI AWARE is a long-standing member of Ocean Conservancy’s Trash Free Seas Alliance® and a critical ICC partner through its Dive Against Debris program. Ocean Conservancy has worked closely with CSIRO scientists Drs. Denise Hardesty and Chris Wilcox since we first hosted an international scientific working group on marine debris at University of California Santa Barbara in 2011. Together, our team has produced the largest, most comprehensive scientific evaluation of these marine debris data to date.

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As anyone who has been to the beach knows, some areas are relatively clean while others have large amounts of trash and other debris. Our analysis shows that hotspots (defined as areas in the top 20% of debris density) are not just clustered in one country or one part of the world; they occur in nearly every country and region. With considerable variation at small spatial scales, debris touches all ocean areas, including underwater habitats offshore of beaches and waterways. These patterns of local aggregation appear to be the result of high local debris inputs into areas with limited water circulation.

ICC and Dive Against Debris volunteers catalog a vast array of debris items, from plastic bottles to construction materials.

Using these item-specific data and sophisticated statistical analysis, our team uncovered a number of interesting patterns. Cigarette butts are almost always the most commonly found ICC item, but our study revealed that hotspots for these items were clustered in developed countries like the U.S., Canada and southern Europe. In contrast, plastic bottles were most common in the tropics, where costs and logistics in island nations can limit waste collection and recycling infrastructure compared to other areas. With long coastlines relative to land area, these regions often see increased plastic pollution flowing to the sea during the rainy season. Plastic bags were most common in Central/South America, Africa and south/southeast Asia, while food wrappers were most common in the Philippines, where five of the top 10 hotspots for this item were located. These scientific conclusions are consistent with our on-the-ground experience over the last decade where we have seen firsthand that items like food wrappers and single-serve sachet packaging, with no post-consumer market value, are disposed of in large numbers without sufficient waste management infrastructure.

trash and plastics in the dirttrash and plastics in the dirt
© Elyse Butler / Aurora Photos

These new findings are consistent with the call for a fundamental change in our relationship with plastic. This change is needed now to head off an even larger crisis of ocean plastic pollution in the future. Many of the items cataloged by ICC volunteers have little to no economic value after their use. Policy mechanisms designed to increase the value of plastic would act to incentivize their collection, recycling and reuse. Mandating the use of post-consumer recycled plastic content in new products would also help create market demand for investments in recycling infrastructure, diversion of waste plastic from landfills or incineration and reduction in the need for new, virgin plastic resin.

But we can’t only recycle ourselves out of the problem.

Additionally, we must reduce overall plastic production and use by banning or avoiding those products and materials we can simply live without. National and local governments need to advance policies that accelerate these types of approaches and ensure the plastic industry takes greater responsibility for the plastics from which they profit (like the Break Free from Plastic Pollution Act under consideration in the U.S.). Data from the International Coastal Cleanup and Dive Against Debris—and the kind of analysis in our new publication—can act as a baseline from which to monitor the effectiveness of these and other policy interventions.

As we approach our 36th year of Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup, we want to thank the millions of citizen scientists who completed the tens of thousands of cleanups worldwide that provided the data upon which our new study is founded. Keeping our ocean clean and healthy is a global effort whose success is dependent on each and every participant. On behalf of all of us at Ocean Conservancy, we invite you to safely #CollectAndConnect this Saturday, September 18. Learn more about how you can be part of this global citizen science effort to better inform what we can all do to contribute to an ocean free of plastic pollution.

The post Where are the World’s Plastic Pollution Hotspots? appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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Arctic Voyage Highlights Less Sea Ice Due to a Warming Climate

Last month, the U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Healy left Seward, Alaska to start an Arctic voyage through the famed Northwest Passage, a sea route that winds among islands north of mainland Canada and connects the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.  

Healy route on a mapHealy route on a map
© Ocean Conservancy

As we wrote in an earlier blog, the warming climate has reduced the extent and thickness of summertime sea, making it easier for vessels to travel through these Arctic waters.

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Shortly before Healy left Seward, I was fortunate to host a Zoom chat with two retired Coast Guard officials—both experts on maritime Arctic issues about Healy’s trip and some of the most pressing issues confronting the maritime Arctic today: 

  • Roger Rufe, Vice Admiral, U.S. Coast Guard (retired): During a career in the U.S. Coast Guard that spanned more than three decades, Roger Rufe served as a captain of five Coast Guard cutters. He also commanded the 17th Coast Guard District in Alaska, overseeing operations in the U.S. Arctic. After his Coast Guard career, Roger served as President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy. Currently, Roger is a fellow at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Arctic Study and Policy. 
  • Lawson Brigham, Captain, U.S. Coast Guard (retired): In the course of his career with the Coast Guard, Lawson Brigham commanded four cutters, including the heavy icebreaker Polar Sea on missions in the Arctic and Antarctic. Lawson chaired the Arctic Council’s Arctic Marine Shipping Assessment from 2004 to 2009. Like Roger, Lawson is a fellow at the Coast Guard Academy’s Center for Arctic Study and Policy.
     

You can learn more by watching our video where Roger and Lawson explain what Healy is doing in Arctic waters, discuss how climate change is affecting the region and the Indigenous peoples who live there, describe how Arctic sea ice is changing and talk about some of the other issues affecting the region.

Want to do more to protect the Arctic?  

Join us in telling the Coast Guard to lead the way on reducing greenhouse gas emissions from ship traffic at the International Maritime Organization and to better prepare for climate-related changes here at home. The comment period closes October 6, so take action now! 

The post Arctic Voyage Highlights Less Sea Ice Due to a Warming Climate appeared first on Ocean Conservancy.

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The Ocean at the Center of Climate Action

Last week I had the privilege of joining former Vice President Al Gore in conversation to talk about our ocean and climate change. I’ve never felt more inspired and energized to solve the climate crisis. Staring down climate change is hard, and “climate grief” is real for many of us. But for 40 years, Vice President Gore has led the charge to tackle the biggest environmental threat to the planet, and his enthusiasm and can-do attitude continue to grow—and are infectious. He and I agreed the ocean is a critical part of tackling the climate crisis.

Here are some of my reflections on our conversation:

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What we are experiencing is not normal

Last summer, my family and I stayed indoors in Portland, Oregon, for a week as wildfires burned across the Pacific Northwest, driving our air quality down to the worst in the world. Long predicted by scientists —and compellingly presented by Mr. Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth 15 years ago—extreme and increasingly deadly weather has come to be a regular occurrence. Nearly one in three people in the U.S. experienced a weather disaster in just the last three months. Only two weeks ago, Hurricane Ida brought devastating impacts to the Gulf Coast and unprecedented flooding to New York City and New Jersey, supercharged by climate-driven ocean warming in the Gulf of Mexico.

Climate change and plastics are intrinsically linked

Plastics are widely understood as a threat to the ocean, but what few recognize is that plastics are also a threat to the climate. Most plastics are made of fossil fuels, and their production releases large amounts of greenhouse gas emissions. Plastics now provide a growing investment opportunity for the faltering fossil fuel industry as demand for fossil fuels declines and demand for renewable energy grows. To counter this, Ocean Conservancy is advocating for removal of the huge taxpayer subsidies that are propping up fossil fuels and slowing the transition to a low carbon future and a healthier ocean. This is part of the systemic change we need to make. As Vice President Gore said, “Yes, we should recycle—like we should change to better light bulbs—but as important as that is to do, it’s even more important to change the laws, treaties and subsidies that allow the continued production of fossil fuels.”

Environmental Justice must be centered in the climate fight

The climate crisis is the most important issue of our lifetimes and for future generations, but we cannot solve this crisis without directly addressing the way it affects marginalized people, including Black, Indigenous and other communities of color. Racial minorities bear a disproportionate burden of negative health and environmental impacts of climate change. For example, 13% of Black children have asthma compared to 7% for white children. “More than 1 million African-Americans live in areas where toxic air pollution from natural gas facilities is so high that the cancer risk from this industry exceeds EPA levels of concern,” said Vice President Gore, who then asked the question: “How can this be tolerated by people who are in pursuit of a more perfect union, in a country supposedly uplifted by the values of justice?”

Our call to action

As we look toward the upcoming meeting of world leaders at the 26th Conference of the Parties (COP26) in Glasgow in November, we must keep the pressure on participating countries—especially the United States—to do more. For the ocean to continue to provide the many benefits that humanity depends upon, we need to experience a transformational change away from fossil fuels over the next decade. What was “inconvenient” 15 years ago has now become grave. This is the time to “go big” to implement radical change; incremental change is no longer sufficient.

We can move forward, inspired by Vice President Gore’s relentless and tireless focus on climate change and the inspiration he has provided to countless people around the globe, including me. The world is a better place because of Al Gore’s courage and well-informed hope, a combination of traits that is both rare and essential.

I am deeply honored to have had this conversation with Vice President Gore.

Now it is time for all of us to renew our commitment to our community, our ocean, our planet and each other—and take action for a better tomorrow.

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