Ocean Action Hub

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Striving To Reduce Ocean Pollution, EU Proposes Ban Of Everyday Plastic Items

29 May 2018 - Straws, plates, cutlery and cotton buds are among the plastic products prohibited under the proposed new rules.

29 May 2018 - Alarmed by the sheer quantity of plastic clogging our oceans, the European Union is mulling ambitious new rules that would reduce or outrightly prohibit many everyday single-use plastic items.

The proposed measures, unveiled Monday by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, target the top 10 plastic products most often found on Europe’s beaches.

Some of these items — like plastic straws, cotton buds, plates and disposable cutlery — will be banned completely under the new rules, which require the approval of the European Parliament and all 28 EU member states. For other products, like plastic bags and food containers, producers will be required to help cover the costs of waste management and clean-up, and member states will be obligated to raise awareness about the negative impacts of using such items.

EU countries will also be required to collect 90 percent of single-use plastic drink bottles by 2025. Improved waste management of abandoned and lost fishing gear, which accounts for almost 30 percent of Europe’s beach litter, is also mandated in the proposal.

“Plastic can be fantastic, but we need to use it more responsibly,” Jyrki Katainen, a European Commission vice president, said in a press release announcing the draft rules. “Single-use plastics are not a smart economic or environmental choice, and today’s proposals will help business and consumers to move towards sustainable alternatives. This is an opportunity for Europe to lead the way, creating products that the world will demand for decades to come, and extracting more economic value from our precious and limited resources.”

According to CNN Money, it could take three or four years for the rules to be enforced. But if they are, the European Commission said the measures are expected have a profound financial and environmental impact.

Consumers would save about $7.6 billion per year, 30,000 jobs would be created and about 3.7 million tons of carbon dioxide emissions would be avoided by 2030, the commission said.

It added that though the rules are expected to cost businesses over $3.5 billion annually, companies also stand to benefit from the new measures.

“Having one set of rules for the whole EU market will create a springboard for European companies to develop economies of scale and be more competitive in the booming global marketplace for sustainable products,” the commission said in a press release. “By setting up re-use systems (such as deposit refund schemes), companies can ensure a stable supply of high-quality material. In other cases, the incentive to look for more sustainable solutions can give companies the technological lead over global competitors.” 

This will also mean more sustainable choices for consumers, said Frans Timmermans, the commission’s vice president.

“What this means in practice is that you won’t see single-use plastic cotton buds on your supermarket shelves, but ones made with more environmental friendly materials instead,” Timmermans told The New York Times. “The same will go for straws, drink stirrers, sticks for balloons, cutlery and plates.”

“You can still organize a picnic, drink a cocktail and clean your ears, just like before,” he said. “And you get the added bonus that when you do so, you can have a clear conscience about the environmental impact of your actions.”

Environmental groups have lauded the EU’s proposal as a significant step in the right direction, though some have suggested the rules don’t go far enough

The plastics industry is expected to push back against the proposed regulations. Plastics Europe, a trade group representing European manufacturers, criticized the proposal, saying in a press release that “plastic product bans are not the solution” and “alternative products may not be more sustainable.” 

CONTINUE READING: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/eu-single-use-plastic-ban_us_5b0cec...

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Even The Bottom Of The World’s Deepest Ocean Trench Is Not Safe From Plastic Bags

14 May 2018 - A plastic bag was found at a depth of almost 36,000 feet in the Mariana Trench. Scientists say it’s the world’s deepest known piece of plastic trash.

14 May 2018 - Almost 36,000 feet underwater, near the very bottom of the world’s deepest ocean trench, scientists came across a troubling find: a plastic bag, similar to one you might take home from a supermarket, lying incongruously in the darkness.

A recent study on deep-sea ocean pollution identified the bag, found in 1998 by a robotic submersible at a depth of 35,756 feet in the Mariana Trench, as the deepest known piece of plastic trash on Earth. Scientists say its presence in one of the world’s most remote environments signals just how worryingly pervasive plastic pollution has become.

And the problem isn’t limited to a single plastic bag.

For the study, researchers from Japan, together with scientists from UN Environment’s World Conservation Monitoring Center, combed through the Deep-Sea Debris Database, a massive Japanese library of deep-sea photos and videos taken on more than 5,000 dives over the course of 30 years. The database was made public in 2017.

What they found was a disturbing amount of trash clogging deep-sea environments, including the Japan Trench and the Mariana Trench, as well as deep-sea areas in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. 

The scientists said the images they scoured showed more than 3,400 pieces of debris. More than one-third of the waste they counted was made of plastic ― a staggering 89 percent of which was single-use items like plastic bags, packaging and bottles.

In environments deeper than 19,000 feet, more than half of the debris logged by the study was plastic ― and almost all of the plastic found at those depths was single-use.

“The ubiquitous distribution of single-use plastic, even to the greatest depths of the ocean, reveal a clear link between daily human activities and the remotest of environments,” UN Environment said in a statement last month.

It remains unclear what the full impact of plastic pollution is on deep-sea areas and habitats, but preliminary research paints a grim picture.  

Last year, scientists were stunned to find more chemical pollutants in parts of the Mariana Trench than in some of China’s most polluted waterways. The researchers hypothesized at the time that some of that pollution had been caused by the breakdown of ocean plastics. 

“We still think of the deep ocean as being this remote and pristine realm, safe from human impact, but our research shows that, sadly, this could not be further from the truth,” the study’s lead author, Alan Jamieson told The Guardian last year.

Plastic debris may also be endangering organisms that live deep in the ocean

The recent pollution study said 17 percent of the manmade debris that was counted was “found with at least one organism” ― a relatively high percentage given how sparsely populated deep-sea habitats are. Some organisms were found to be entangled with the plastic items, the researchers said, and others were covered or “attached” to the debris.

“Once in the deep-sea, plastic can persist for thousands of years,” UN Environment said in its statement. “Deep-sea ecosystems are highly endemic and have a very slow growth rate, so the potential threats from plastic pollution are concerning.”

Every year, the oceans are inundated with about 19 billion pounds of plastic garbage, with single-use plastic products reportedly being the biggest source of trash found near waterways and beaches.

As public concerns mount about the potential impacts of such pollution on human health and the marine environment, state and national governments, as well as corporations and individual consumers, have been pushing for improved regulations of plastic use, production and waste management.

In 2015, Hawaii became the first U.S. state to ban plastic bags in grocery stores. California followed suit, and New York is considering similar restrictions. 

The U.K. announced last month that it planned to ban the sale of single-use plastic straws, cotton buds and drink stirrers. The European Union announced its own war against single-use plastics earlier this year.

CONTINUE READING: https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/plastic-bag-deepest-ocean-mariana-t...

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A Look Back At The 2017 United Nations Ocean Conference

30 June 2017 - Each of us must pick one issue — generally, globally, specifically, locally — and engage our many talents and actions toward that one solution. Pick yours, and by so doing, join in turning the tide by marking this the point in history when humanity — you and me — began righting the wrongs perpetrated on our ocean.

30 June 2017 - The UN Ocean Conference in New York City took place in early June, an event to bring together nearly all nations with interest in policy, governance, and international cooperation for the future of the world ocean. The specific focus was on UN Sustainability Goal 14 (SDG14) “to conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development.” According to the post-meeting summary, approximately 4,000 delegates attended the conference, including 16 Heads of State or Government, two deputy Prime Ministers, 86 Ministers, 16 Vice Ministers, other government representatives and intergovernmental organizations, international and regional financial institutions, civil society, academic and research institutions, indigenous peoples, local communities, and members of the private sector. It was reported that no official United States representative was in attendance.

Success at the UN Ocean Conference was to be measured by three outcomes: 1. a renewed Call to Action, 2. a register of voluntary actions taken and to be taken by governments, and 3. key messages and partnership dialogue from delegates, activists, and other interested parties regarding the growing challenges in various areas and the need for their solution. Such calls to action are typically built on the calls from previous conferences, modified to meet the changing circumstance. The partnership dialogues vary; in this instance focusing primarily on ocean acidification in the context of the Paris Climate Agreement; marine pollution — particularly long life and micro-plastics; and over-fishing. Some progress was reported; certain exemplary actions taken were celebrated; and some amount of satisfaction was expressed for certain projects that represent incremental innovation and action.

Neither I nor a representative of the World Ocean Observatory was in attendance. I did, however, read the final conference summary report published by the Earth Negotiations Bulletin. I streamed the conference from time to time and listened to experts, colleagues, and ocean friends re-emphasize the urgency and need for actions beyond those achieved, destruction to be reversed, and scale to be faced in successfully addressing a complicated global problem.

Truth is in the details, evinced by the specific actions and investment pledged by the attending nations and others. The accounting is always problematic:

< What funds have already been committed?

< What are the new commitments?

< Which commitments have been met? Which have not? Why?

Cynics abound. But we must understand that the entire enterprise is a voluntary collaboration by entities that don’t often collaborate easily or well. There is no central leadership. There is no evaluation or enforcement. No one is penalized if they fail to perform.

One must respect the talent, energy, and commitment of the nations, NGOs, philanthropists, and others determined to meet the ocean challenge. One must also acknowledge the work being done by so many others — from scientists to economists to business people to a growing community of Citizens of the Ocean — all contributing exponentially to this vast and necessary response. It is awesome, even as it is not enough.

What to do? We ask that question often at World Ocean Observatory and on World Ocean Radio, our weekly audio podcast. And every week we come up with a different answer. That diffuse reality is evident even in the compression of a five-day international meeting of leaders and activists — there are so many urgent problems that require so much specific energy and skill to solve, how can we possibly prevail? In that question is found the single cohesive answer: that each and every one of us must become an informed agent for change in one aspect of the larger ocean response. Each of us must pick one issue — generally, globally, specifically, locally — and engage our many talents and actions toward that one solution. Pick yours, and by so doing, join all the participants of the UN Ocean Conference in, as General Assembly co-president Isabella Lövin of Sweden stated in her closing remarks, “turning the tide,” by marking this the point in history when humanity, you and me, began “righting the wrongs perpetrated on our ocean.”

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The next ocean meeting will be convened by the European Union in Malta in October of 2017: Our Ocean, An Ocean For Life, and will thereafter to be hosted by Portugal and Kenya in 2020. Learn more at ourocean2017.org.

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The Ocean Conference Revisited first appeared as a 5-minute audio episode on World Ocean Radio. Host Peter Neill is founder and director of the World Ocean Observatory, a web-based place of exchange for information and educational services about the health of the world ocean. Online at worldoceanobservatory.org.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-look-back-at-the-2017-united-natio...

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Celebrating a Living Ocean of Wonder

3 May 2017 - Imagine a planet where 90% of the habitable space is unexplored, where launching expeditions into that uncharted territory almost always yields new species and insights, and w

3 May 2017 - Imagine a planet where 90% of the habitable space is unexplored, where launching expeditions into that uncharted territory almost always yields new species and insights, and where the unique features and isolation of a dark world harbor plants and animals that bend the rules of life itself. Now take a breath—half of the oxygen you just inhaled comes from that dark, uncharted realm. The planet is Earth, and the dark realm is our ocean.

What’s out there is astonishing— from fish with transparent skulls, to octopi that flap fins near their head to glide through the sea (aptly named the Dumbo Octopus). Animals in the deep ocean light up in dazzling displays of bioluminescent color. The depths of the sea contain entire ecosystems that never see the light of day. But beyond the wonders of the deep and other mysteries of the sea— the migrations across entire oceans that fish, cetaceans and reptiles undertake, symbiosis and solidarity between species, and the fascinating diversity of marine life—we should pay attention to the ocean for a more basic reason: it makes life possible.

If you’ve taken more than one breath in your life, you’ve depended on the ocean to survive. If you’ve ever eaten food that took rainwater to grow, you’ve depended on the ocean for nourishment. If you’ve enjoyed mild weather, you’ve witnessed the ocean’s gift to Earth.

The ocean gives us half the oxygen we breathe, and redistributes heat through ocean currents that stabilize the climate. It also absorbs most of the extra heat trapped by our atmosphere, and feeds or provides income to over a billion people. The sea is the source of almost all rainwater which falls on Earth and takes in all the minerals and waste that flow out from land through rivers.

If our bodies were a microcosm of the planet, the ocean would be our heart and blood, our lungs, kidneys, food source and fever prevention system. All the vital functions of the planet are executed or supported by the ocean, its “blue heart.” Those functions are enabled by a delicate balance, an intimate connection between biological, geological, and chemical cycles in the ocean. The biogeochemistry of the ocean enables life on our blue planet.

The prefix ‘bio-’ in that word (biogeochemistry) underscores the importance of life to Earth’s life support system. A world of living wonder in the deep and in the shallows interacts with chemistry and geology to deliver the services provided by our ocean. Chemistry and geology contribute to our planet’s vital functions, but the ocean’s bounty is enabled by life, by a living ocean of wonder.

Trillions of plankton take in Carbon Dioxide and produce Oxygen—in aggregate, their movement is powerful enough to affect ocean circulation. Whales redistribute nutrients both from the deep to the surface and from higher latitudes to tropical waters. Androgynous fish bring back nutrients from the ocean to land, where they fertilize forests. The list goes on and on.

Every time we breathe, every time we feel rain on our skin, every time we eat or drink or just enjoy weather that’s bearable, we are connected to the sea. The ocean does this through an abundance of life, but its living systems are under threat. We should celebrate all the ocean gives to us. The World Ocean Festival, coming up on June 4th is an opportunity for us all to celebrate the living ocean of wonder that makes Earth a living planet.

CONTINUE READING: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/celebrating-a-living-ocean-of-wonder...

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Ecologists Steel for Even More Coral Bleaching on Great Barrier Reef - The Huffington Post

28 Feb 2017 - Devastating coral bleaching almost certain to increase significantly in coming months, for 4th year running.

28 Feb 2017 - Just when you thought the situation couldn’t get much worse for the Great Barrier Reef comes news that devastating coral bleaching will almost certainly increase significantly — again — in the coming months.

Record bleaching hit the 1,400-mile-long reef system in 2016, for the third year in a row, killing more than 65 percent of the coral of the northern reef. Climate change has impacted the ecosystem, as the colorful zooxanthellae are expelled from the coral during times of stress, according to numerous studies and the Australian Government’s Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority.

Coral can rebound in good times — though it takes as long as a decade — but scientists say that’s not likely to happen soon, if ever. The reef is already warmer than it was at this time last year and there’s a strong strong possibility that March and April will set new temperature highs ― and a new record for coral bleaching. Marine park authority workers are already seeing significant bleaching this season.

“Initial survey results showed high levels of bleaching among the most sensitive coral species,” Authority chairman Russell Reichelt told Newsport in Australia.

The authority has already issued an alert to the government of Australia warning that more of the reef is already showing more heat stress than the same period last year. Officials are receiving “increasing reports of coral bleaching and disease from many parts” of the reef, including some spots already far south of the worst sections of bleaching in 2016.

A study last year predicted that significant bleaching would continue at least until 2040. Lead researcher Gareth Williams of Britain’s Bangor University calls the projections “terrifying.”

“It’s alarming that the reef is bleaching so soon again, giving no time for recovery from the huge losses of corals in the northern third of the Reef in 2016,” Terry Hughes, director of the ARC Centre of Excellence for Coral Reef Studies, told the Sydney Morning Herald

CONTINUE READING: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/barrier-reef-bleaching_us_58b52dd3e4...

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There’s a Bold New Plan to Make Ocean Trash a Thing of the Past #CleanSeas

UN Environment's #CleanSeas initiative aims to eliminate single-use plastic bags and microplastics in cosmetic products by 2020. Pledge your commitment here!

22 Feb 2017 - The way things are going now, our oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050. An ambitious United Nations campaign aims to stop this from happening.

On 22 February 2017, UN Environment announced its #CleanSeas initiative at the Economist World Ocean Summit in Bali, Indonesia. The campaign focuses on two major sources of marine litter: single-use plastic bags and microplastics in cosmetic products. The goal is to eliminate these major sources of marine litter by 2022. 

“We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse,” Erik Solheim, head of UN Environment, said in a statement. “It must stop.”

Each year, more than 8 million tons of plastic ends up in the oceans. Much of it can’t be broken down and will remain in the oceans for centuries. The debris injures and kills fish, seabirds and marine mammals. It also causes fish to be smaller and slower than those raised in clean water.

There’s also a concern that it could be harmful for humans to consume fish that have ingested plastic, but more research needs to be done on the issue. 

Plastic pollution costs $8 billion in damage to marine ecosystems each year, according to UN Environment. 

Ten countries, which are considered pioneers in addressing the issue, have joined the #CleanSeas initiative. They include Indonesia, Uruguay, Belgium, Costa Rica and France. The United States hasn’t yet joined in. CONTINUE READING HERE: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/un-environment-clean-seas-ocean-plastics_us_58adcc39e4b0d0a6ef470d42

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Here’s One Way To Keep Oceans From Having More Plastics Than Fish - Huff Post

19 January 2017 - Current recycling methods are falling short. Each year, 

19 January 2017 - Current recycling methods are falling short. Each year, 8 million tons of plastic wind up in the ocean. At this rate, by 2050, we’ll have more plastic than fish in our big blue seas.

That threat played a major role in motivating Unilever, the company behind such brands as Dove and Suave, to upend its approach to packaging. Unilever announced on Jan. 14 that all of its plastic packaging will be recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2025.

“If we want to solve the issue of plastic in the ocean, we can’t go to the symptoms,” CEO Paul Polman told The Huffington Post. “We have to go to the source.”

While recycling experts welcomed the announcement, some said they were “cautiously optimistic” about how effective it will be. Continue reading: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/unilever-plastic-recycle_us_587fa23de4b0cf0ae8814032