Want to hear something scary, scarier than any horror movie I have ever seen?
We are systematically trashing — and killing — our oceans. I know some of us take those crystal blue waters for granted, but the oceans are not meant to be a bottomless trash can for our litter.
It is critical that we maintain healthy oceans that are free of trash and debris. The ocean provides us with the basic elements of life. Half of the oxygen that we breathe is produced by oceans. They are an essential part of the water cycle. The oceans provide food that we eat and help to provide the water we drink.
Our beaches support healthy ocean life. They provide habitat and nesting grounds for ocean wildlife, like sea turtles and sea birds. Healthy, litter-free beaches help to protect healthy oceans.
Ocean trash ranks among the most serious pollution problems. It is not just ugly. Trash in the water and on the beach can affect the health of aquatic life, wildlife, economies — and us. Ocean trash can harm aquatic life that eats or gets entangled in it.
It can ensnare boat propellers. It can injure swimmers and beachgoers. It can drive away tourists — and their wallets — that many coastal economies depend on. The cost for the retrieval of beach and ocean trash is enormous.
Those are some of the immediate issues, but maintaining a safe water source and having air to breathe are long-term reasons to protect our oceans.
The good news is that we can prevent trashed beaches and debris-filled oceans. We create the litter problem and we can prevent it through our choices.
Ocean Conservancy recently revealed a comprehensive impact study by examining the effects of the 20 most commonly found ocean debris, including fishing equipment, plastic bottles and plastic bags. The study, culled from 30 years of data from the Ocean Conservancy International Cleanup efforts, found that a wide variety of items pose threats to marine wildlife through entanglement, ingestion, or contamination.
This suggests that it is vital that we keep plastics out of the ocean. Among the items, abandoned and lost fishing gear, like nets, fishing line and buoys pose the greatest overall threat to marine wildlife, primarily because of entanglement. Plastic bags emerged as the second most harmful item as they are often confused for food by marine mammals. Even smaller items, like balloons, were found to be harmful.
Solutions must include consumer behavior change with plastic products, litter prevention enforcement and coastal cleanups, as well as more effective plastic waste management. Eight million metric tons of plastic enter into the world’s oceans every year and the amount continues to grow. Without concerted global action, there could be one ton of plastic for every 3 tons of fish by 2025.
At Keep Liberty Beautiful during September and October, we focus on protecting our waterways. Liberty County’s 11th annual Rivers Alive Day is scheduled for Oct. 22, but groups are already cleaning up locations around our community. With more than 40 percent of Liberty County liquid" — wetlands and marshes, creeks, rivers and ponds — there are countless locations where we can stop litter before it pollutes our waters and, ultimately, the ocean.
We believe that removing as much litter and debris before it ends up in a wetland or stream is essential to keeping these areas healthy. So we encourage you to join us for Rivers Alive. By giving a few hours to protecting the waterways and wetlands, you can assist in an international effort to take care of our oceans.
Contact us now to register an organization, church group, business or family and invest in the health of our community and its waters. Contact KLB at 880 4888 or mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org go to www.keeplibertybeautiful.org.
Swida is director of Keep Liberty Beautiful.