Wednesday, October 05, 2005

Getting Garbage Off America’s Beaches

(MF) - This summer, millions of Americans will head to the beach for fun in the sun. While many will find rest and relaxation, others may also notice a not-so-welcome scene: beachside litter.

In many areas, food wrappers, bottles, plastic bags and cigarette butts discarded by beachgoers dot the landscape. Derelict fishing gear and commercial fishing nets also contribute to the problem, along with debris washed downstream from nearby cities and towns. The Ocean Conservancy, a group that promotes the health of our ocean ecosystems, says recreational and shoreline activities account for more than 50 percent of trash strewn on beaches nationwide.

“Marine debris poses a serious threat to marine wildlife and ecosystems,” said Seba Sheavly, director of The Ocean Conservancy’s cleanup efforts. “Thousands of turtles, fish, and seabirds can be killed globally every year by ingesting or becoming entangled in marine debris.”

In September 2004, the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy issued a report finding that drifting gear poses “a serious threat to fishery resources, wildlife and habitat, as well as human health and safety.”

Protecting our waters starts with cleanup efforts where anyone can participate. The Ocean Conservancy has been coordinating the International Coastal Cleanup for nearly two-decades. The annual event, the largest single-day volunteer effort of its kind, attracts over 300,000 volunteers and takes place in 49 states and territories and in almost 100 countries around the globe. The cleanup celebrates its 20th anniversary on September 17.

Coordinators document what is found and record the number of participants and distance covered. The conservancy compiles this information and uses it to paint a better picture of the sources of marine debris. This comprehensive look at how humans contribute to refuse problems helps educate government, scientists and the public.

“We couldn’t do it without the thousands of volunteers around the world,” Sheavly said. “They understand that stewardship of our ocean is a shared responsibility.”

Responsible actions are the first steps to keeping our beaches clean, making the lazy days of summer a bit more fun for everyone, and a lot better for the environment.


On the Net:

International Coastal Cleanup site:


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