Picture yourself walking along a stretch of coastline. Maybe you’re on a tranquil island in the South Pacific, or a busy beach along the Atlantic Ocean, or even a remote, icy shore near the Arctic. No matter which location you’re imagining, all of these places can share an unfortunate feature: marine debris.
While soda cans, disposable diapers, or fishing lines may seem harmless, marine debris is one of the greatest threats to the ocean. Plastic bags, for example, look like food to turtles and other marine wildlife – but instead of a good meal, a gulp of marine debris can lead to injury, starvation, and even death. Beachgoers can step on broken glass, cans, needles or other items. Marine debris can also damage or entangle boats, potentially creating safety hazards for passengers and having a serious impact on economic livelihoods.
That’s the problem -- now here’s what you can do to be part of the solution. Roll up your sleeves and help clean-up trash on or near shorelines where you live whenever you can, but especially on Saturday, September 20 as part of the International Coastal Cleanup, an annual global effort to clean-up marine debris. You won’t be alone; during last year’s coastal cleanup, 648,015 volunteers in 92 countries picked up more than 12.3 million pounds of trash. U.S. diplomats from Tokyo to Tijuana to Benin teamed up with local communities to clean up their local waterways and beaches as part of the International Coastal Cleanup effort. Visit this website to find a cleanup near you.
You can also visit the NOAA Marine Debris Program website to learn more about marine debris and what you can do to help prevent it.
See you at the beach!
About the Author: Kira Vuille-Kowing serves as a Foreign Affairs Officer in the Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.