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Too many rivers and harbors around the world are beset by plastic trash. Photo courtesy What’s Up with That.

migrate up the food chain, ultimately ending up on our dinner tables. Equally bad is the propensity for nanoplastics to form chemical bonds with other manmade toxins that migrate downstream into the ocean such as pesticides, pharmaceuticals, heavy metals and the toxins from discarded cigarette filters, etc. The science in this field is relatively new, but evolving rapidly, yet perhaps not as rapidly as ocean plastic pollution is multiplying. According to plasticoceans.org—an ocean conservation nonprofit—an estimated eight million tons of plastic makes its way into oceans around the globe each year. And Science magazine suggests it’s worse: “18,000,000,000 pounds of plastic debris that’s dumped, littered or otherwise finds its way into the oceans every year.” Plastic ocean pollution is creating a dire situation. That’s the bad news. The good news is that this situation has prompted a raft of initiatives committed to addressing the worst problems associated with it. Ocean Conservancy, an international nonprofit advocacy group that has been engaged in fighting ocean pollution for over 30 years, has a Trash Free Seas initiative. Through this, the organization has engaged over 12 million volunteers and removed nearly 229 million pounds of trash from the ocean and surrounding shorelines, and much of that is plastic. A more recently established organization—5 Gyres Institute—is focused entirely on ocean plastic pollution. This nonprofit was founded by a former U.S. Marine and his wife—Dr. Markus Eriksen and Anna Cummins. To raise awareness about plastic pollution, Eriksen sailed across the Pacific aboard a raft made primarily from single-use plastic water bottles. 5 Gyres uses scientific exploration, education and action to encourage systemic change and cooperation by corporate partners and policymakers. Ultimately, the organization seeks to motivate the general public to reduce its plastic consumption and thus ocean pollution. The Surfrider Foundation is another important advocacy organization bringing action and attention to this issue of ocean-borne plastic waste. Most recently, its Ocean Friendly Restaurant initiative allows eateries to be designated “Ocean Friendly” if their management complies with several operational requirements. Chief among those is a prohibition on the use of expanded polystyrene (aka Styrofoam) and plastic bags, as well as the implementation of proper recycling practices and only reusable tableware for onsite dining. And the list goes on. The U.S.-based Sailors for the Sea has created a number of important initiatives bent on uniting boaters to protect the ocean. A prominent video on the organization’s website encourages sailors not to put up with plastic trash in their playground. Take3 is an Australianbased nonprofit that encourages anyone visiting or using a waterway to take three pieces of trash with them when they leave. Plastic Tides is a recently created organization that describes its work as “crusading against plastic.” The team behind this nonprofit seeks to change the public’s mindset about plastic. And the Rozalia Project, which is based aboard the 60-foot sloop American Promise, uses educational outreach and hands-on effort to promote the fact that most marine debris can be found near shore in rivers and harbors, and that’s where we should focus our efforts to News & Views for Southern Sailors

turn back the tide of plastic pollution. Perhaps one of the most engaging initiatives is Parley for the Oceans, an international nonprofit bent on addressing ocean plastic pollution by encouraging us to rethink plastic altogether. The people behind Parley essentially ask, is this ubiquitous substance really indispensable in our lives? They urge us first to avoid plastic wherever possible, then to intercept plastic waste and finally to consider redesigning the plastic economy. Parley’s Plastic Ocean Program includes a broad spectrum of efforts, including a global clean-up effort, an initiative focused on the retrieval of discarded gill nets, a research initiative to repurpose plastic harvested from oceans into new products, along with microplastics research and an effort to develop alternative materials to plastic. The organization has also established a worldwide network of what it calls ocean sentinels. This is a gathering of sailors and fleet owners who conduct water tests and trawl for ocean plastic. It’s essentially a platform for open-source citizen science and action. And that’s where sailors come into the equation. Ocean plastic pollution and its deleterious consequences are a shared problem. And none of us can escape complicity. We’re all creators of this problem because we’re all consumers. Consequently, we’re all obliged to be involved in the solutions. Sailors in particular should be engaged because we’re the ones whose playground is most at risk. We can all take a lesson from British offshore racer Dee Cafari, whose entry in the current Volvo Ocean Race is competing under the name Turn the Tide on Plastic. As we say goodbye to 2017, let’s all agree to do that.

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December 2017

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Southwinds December 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

Southwinds December 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...