Ocean Conservancy Report: Trash in Our Ocean has Become One of the Worst Pollution Problems We Face Threatening Ecosystems, Wildlife, and Coastal Economies
Data collected during the 24th annual International Coastal Cleanup provide the only global snapshot of the marine debris problem; 500,000 volunteers around the world removed 7.4 million pounds of trash from our ocean, lakes and rivers
Washington, DC – Today, Ocean Conservancy releases Trash Travels: From Our Hands to the Sea, Around the Globe, and Through Time – the only global snapshot of the marine debris problem facing wildlife, economies and marine ecosystems. Nearly 500,000 volunteers around the world combed their local beaches and waterways collecting trash and recording the data during the 24th annual International Coastal Cleanup – the largest volunteer effort of its kind. Volunteers removed and recorded 7.4 million pounds of trash in 108 countries and locations, 45 US states and the District of Columbia.
The report features Ocean Conservancy’s annual Marine Debris Index – the world’s only country-by-country, state-by-state analysis of trash in our ocean and waterways. Trash Travels also shines a spotlight on the growing threat of marine debris – one of our greatest global pollution problems.
“Momentum is building. There is a growing understanding of the significant impact trash has on wildlife, the economy and the productivity and resiliency of our ocean,” said Vikki Spruill, President and CEO of Ocean Conservancy. “The data generated by hundreds of thousands of dedicated volunteers around the world provide us with a global snapshot of the trash in our ocean, but cleanups alone cannot solve the problem – it’s time to stop marine debris at the source. From design to disposal, we all have a role to play: corporations can reduce packaging, governments can enact strong marine debris policies, and each of us can choose re-usable items, recycle when possible and put trash in its place.”
Marine debris is one of the most widespread pollution problems we face, with plastics making up approximately three-quarters of all trash floating in the ocean. Birds, fish and other wildlife can easily mistake smaller debris for food, choking the animals, or blocking the digestive system. For instance, sea turtles can easily mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish with deadly consequences. Whales and dolphins can face a similar fate by ingesting larger items. Ropes, old fishing gear, and other larger debris items can pose an entanglement danger to wildlife, damage sensitive ocean habitats like coral reefs, and interfere with maritime safety and navigation.
“Eliminating the threat of marine debris will help improve the ocean’s resilience. Our ocean is our life-support system, and when we trash our ocean we are trashing our own health and well-being,” concluded Spruill.
The 2009 International Coastal Cleanup, by the numbers:
- Volunteers found 336 marine animals, including 138 birds, entangled in marine debris – 120 of the animals were still alive and released. Fishing line and nets were some of the most dangerous items, trapping over 200 animals.
- Volunteers found 512, 517 cups, plates, forks, knives and spoons – enough to provide a full set of dinnerware to over 100,000 people.
- Volunteers around the world covered 14, 827 miles – more than six times the length of the Mississippi river.
- Volunteers found 58, 881 bottles of oil/lube during the cleanup. This is the amount that would be used to change the oil in nearly 12,000 mid-sized cars.
Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup engages volunteer organizations and individuals to remove trash and debris from the world’s beaches and waterways; to identify the sources of debris; and to change policies and behaviors that cause marine debris in the first place. The 25th International Coastal Cleanup to be held around the world on September 25th, 2010.