Plastic in the ocean: How do we solve the problem?

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Marine debris is an increasingly big problem in our world today. As a result, how we dispose of our garbage is becoming more and more important.

Littering is our choice; however, it not only affects us, but the entire marine ecosystem. If we can stop creating marine debris and clean up from the past, then we will be choosing to create a more sustainable future for our environment and the many species which thrive in it.

Nearly 80 per cent of the debris found on beaches, coastal waters, estuaries, and oceans is washed, blown or dumped from shore. This debris threatens over 265 different marine and coastal species. Plastic accounts for 60 per cent of the debris found on beaches and, unfortunately, it is one of the most harmful because it is not biodegradable.

Even more unfortunate is the fact that people dump roughly 14 billion pounds of garbage annually into the oceans.

Marine debris, in simple terms, is garbage that we put into the ocean. The solution is simple: don’t put your garbage anywhere but the proper disposal place. This, like many things, is easier said than done. The following are some ways to help keep marine debris at a minimum. •Dispose of garbage properly to reduce the amount of trash that washes into waterways from storm drains. •The 3 R’s are also extremely important: reduce, reuse, and recycle. •Lower the risk of entanglement to marine species by cutting the rings of plastic six-pack holders (incase they do make it out to sea). •Participate in local beach clean-ups, organize your own, or at least pick something up when you see it. •Avoid purchasing materials that can harm the environment and buy alternatives when possible. Also, avoid excessive packaging with purchases. •Balloons are a major issue, especially helium-filled balloons. If released into the air they will most likely end up in the sea where an animal could get entangled in it or ingest it thinking that it is food. •Never throw left over batteries overboard (or car fluids, paint, or other chemicals). •Make sure all gear is attached properly so it will not end up in the water. •If you see a beach that needs to be cleaned, or a large object which should be picked up, call the Fundy Baykeeper hotline at (506)-650-5849.

Education is the most effective way to put an end to marine debris. The Fundy North Fishermen’s Association has put up several signs on the wharves of southwest New Brunswick. These signs are there to warn people of the impact that marine debris can have on lobster, and to remind them to stop littering altogether. Education is key, so pay attention to the signs; they are there to help. (Abbie Mitchell, a student intern with the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association, has researched recent findings on lobster health and the impacts of marine debris and plastics. The following articles were written by Mitchell on behalf of the Fundy North Fishermen’s Association and the HADD program (Harmful Alternation Disruption and Destruction of Fish Habitat). Fundy North’s marine debris awareness program is funded by the New Brunswick Department of Transportation to compensate for damage to ocean habitat resulting from the construction of the new Grand Manan ferry wharf at Wallace Cove, Blacks Harbour.)

Organizations: New Brunswick Department of Transportation

Geographic location: Fundy North Fishermen, New Brunswick, Grand Manan

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