Political action on marine debris
Sen. Inouye recently introduced the Trash Free Seas Act, in order to learn more about marine debris and how to prevent it.
Monday, June 20, 2011 - 16:33
PARADISE LOST: Politicians are starting to recognize the substantial effect marine debris has on the U.S. economy. (Photo: Polihale/Wikimedia Commons)
This week we have both International Surfing Day as well as the first official day of summer! I'm getting ready for a much-needed beach vacation, and I hope it's the first of many days this summer I'll be enjoying the sunshine and salty air.
For beach lovers like me, there's another reason for us to celebrate: the recently introduced, bipartisan Trash Free Seas Act. Hawaii hosted a conference on marine debris this spring, and now the state's senator, Daniel K. Inouye, is pushing for political action in addition to research and awareness. The text of the act singled out abandoned fishing gear and plastics for their deterimental effect on "living marine resources, the marine environment, navigation safety, [and] the United States economy." (Hawaii is especially susceptible to economic effects of ocean trash because of its reliance on tourism, and therefore pristine beaches.) The ultimate goal of the act is to "prevent, reduce, and remove occurance and impacts of trash in the ocean."
It's always inspiring to read about powerful political figures with strong environmental voting records. I applaud Sen. Inouye and his fellow sponsors, but as always, there are steps we can take on our own, as well.
I gave some ideas on cutting back on plastic and styrofoam in this article, and you can also look up times and locations for local beach cleanups to clear up some of the fishing gear and trash already landing on the shore.
To reduce the amount of plastic going in in the first place, I've also switched to making my own coffee and tea at work, and keep a mug handy at all times. That way I've saved money on getting my caffeine fix, and also stopped using single-use plastic coffee cups at the same time.
For a significant local impact, encourage your city or town to enact a plastic bag ban, already effective in several California cities.
Surfrider sponsors a program called Rise Above Plastics that encourages consumers to reduce their use of single-use plastic, cutting back on how much eventually ends up in the ocean. Five hundred billion bags are used worldwide each year — that's almost beyond comprehension! Pledge your support here and start decreasing the plastic heading for the sea.
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