“Marine debris is everyone’s problem” is a tag-line that we use in so many of the products we create. As a species, this issue truly is OUR problem–we’re responsible for it and only we can fix it.
Possibly one of the most daunting aspects of marine debris (or marine litter, as it is referred to in other areas of the world) is the fact that debris knows no boundaries and can be found in pretty much every ocean and waterbody the world over. It’s sad to think that you can now find marine debris in remote areas of the world like Antarctica. It’s even made it into animated children’s films (e.g., “Ponyo” and “Happy Feet”)! Marine debris is truly one of the most pervasive forms of water pollution.
In recent years however, there has been a resurgence in popularity and an increase in awareness about this global problem. I look for marine debris-related media hits every day and you can find them all over the world! Bermuda, Kenya, Japan, Korea, United Kingdom, US, and more! In fact, the 2010 International Coastal Cleanup report, “Trash Travels,” was just published and in 2009 nearly a half a million people turned out in 108 countries and locations around the world for the sole purpose of cleaning up marine debris! Together, they cleaned up over 7.4 million pounds of debris! That’s equal to over 820 African elephants or nearly 300 school buses! Now that’s impressive!
Building upon that international note, the NOAA Marine Debris Program and United Nations Environment Programme are organizing the 5th International Marine Debris Conference to be held March 20-25, 2011 in Honolulu, Hawaii. The conference (abbreviated “5IMDC”– we love acronyms!) will bring together international marine debris researchers, natural resource managers, policy makers, industry representatives, and the nongovernmental community. 5IMDC will highlight research advances, allow sharing of strategies and best practices to assess, reduce, and prevent the impacts of marine debris, and provide an opportunity for the development of specific bilateral or multi-country strategies.
It’s a very exciting time and one that, at least for me, incites hope that while marine debris is a daunting global issue, there are thousands around the world working to solve it.
Keeping the seas free of debris!