Do You Sea What I Sea? Ocean and Freshwater Conservation

What do cigarette butts, food wrappers, plastic bags and bottles and dinnerware have in common? They’re some of the top debris items collected on beaches around the world in 2007. The Ocean Conservancy recently released a report about trash found in or near our oceans. Volunteers (more than 378,000) from around the world picked up more than 6 million pounds of debris from over 33,000 miles of beaches; scuba divers even removed trash found underwater. Volunteers “record the trash found on land and underwater allowing Ocean Conservancy a global snapshot of the problem.”

According to the report:
“Trash in the ocean kills more than one million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles each year through ingestion and entanglement. This year, 81 birds, 63 fish, 49 invertebrates, 30 mammals 11 reptiles and one amphibian were found entangled in debris by volunteers. Some of the debris they were entangled or had ingested include plastic bags, fishing line, fishing nets, six-pack holders, string from a balloon or kite, glass bottles and cans.”
You can download the complete report.

The next International Coastal Cleanup takes place September 20, 2008.

If you're interested in helping protect our oceans, the Ocean Conservancy has listed 10 actions that we can take:
  • Join their annual clean up campaign.
  • Clean up our trash. Throw it away in proper receptacles and clean up debris we see while we’re out.
  • Collect monofilament fishing line.
  • Contain and clean spills while boating.
  • Recycle things like used motor oil and oil filters and NEVER pour anything into an open sewer or storm drain.
  • Use organic or homemade cleaners.
  • Choose reusable items and reduce waste as much as we can (and try not to use disposable items).
  • Properly dispose of used batteries, electronics, etc.
  • Keep streets, sidewalks, parking lots & storm drains clear of debris. That ends up in our waterways.
  • Contact elected officials & speak out for clean and protected waterways.

In addition to cleaning up and protecting our oceans, more attention is now being given to freshwater systems. For example, The World Wildlife Fund and the Nature Conservancy recently announced the creation of the Freshwater Ecoregions of the World (FEOW) map, which provides “the first global biogeographic regionalization of the Earth's freshwater biodiversity, and synthesizing biodiversity and threat data for the resulting ecoregions.”

The map includes data about numbers for freshwater fish, amphibians, turtles and crocodiles, as well as ecoregion descriptions and information about climate, habitats, topography, etc. Other maps available include different “threat” analyses (such as the impact of human footprint, irrigation, urban areas, etc.) and major habitat types.

We've mentioned it before, but we have a great activity for grades 4 and up called Whale's Stomach that helps students learn about the impact of our "throwaway" society by exploring all the different kinds of trash found in a whale's stomach.

Water may cover the majority of the earth, but its systems are fragile.

~ Marsha, Web Content/Community Manager
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