268,940 tons of plastic float through the world’s oceans, spreading, accumulating, and being swallowed or absorbed. A group of researchers led by Markus Eriksen of the Five Gyres Institute in LA made this estimate in 2014. 5.25 trillion plastic particles are sitting in the ocean, they wrote in their paper, which was the first ever estimate for the total amount of plastic in the ocean.
If you’ve been following this blog, you know all about marine debris (if not, check out these two articles explaining microplastics and garbage patches and how they can be prevented). You also know that Earth Day recently passed, a holiday for which I wrote a two-part series regaling all that one can do to celebrate Earth Day and help the planet. But the issues facing this planet are not ones that can be solved in one day. Even looking just at the marine environment, one day is nowhere close to enough.
348 days and counting until Earth Day 2018. What will you do in the meantime?
Each year, NAMEPA supports groups all over North America in setting up marina cleanup days. Before being introduced to NAMEPA, I had never heard of Marina Cleanup Day. But there were a lot of things I didn’t know about the maritime world before joining NAMEPA.
As a side note, if there’s one thing I can teach my readers from my own experience, it’s that the most important thing to do for a cause you believe in is to learn about it from every possible angle. It is only by conversing with different communities involved in conservation, science, the shipping industry, fisheries, boating, and every other activity involved in using the ocean that I have gotten the whole picture. All of these communities have a mutual interest in a healthy ocean which they can continue to use. Each one also has a unique perspective and important information regarding the ocean.
With your 348 days until the next Earth Day, what will you do? Maybe the answer is get involved with a cleanup. Often, Marina Cleanup Day is tied to National Marina Day in June. As mariners around the world gather to celebrate marinas, they can also give back by helping protect an area that is important to them, their boats, and to a vast variety of organisms. Other times Coastal Cleanup Day is combined with Marina Cleanup Day.
One of the reasons marinas and coasts are such an important focus is because of their proximity to human activity. Coasts are usually the ecosystem most impacted by pollution and marine debris, so a cleanup in these areas is capable of a huge impact on the health of the area.