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Celebrating the Sea & Talking Trash

Angela Haseltine Pozzi - Image: WashedAshore.org

It's World Oceans Day and National Oceans Month

Posted 8 June 2014 by Carol Brighton

With recognition by both the Whitehouse and the UN, the ocean is officially acknowledged and celebrated in June.  To put a spotlight on the scourge of the sea, plastic pollution, the Virginia Aquarium is exhibiting art created from beach trash.  The “Washed Ashore” collection contains larger than life whimsical sculptures of sea life most impacted by marine debris.  The creatures are fashioned from common easily recognizable plastic products harvested along the shoreline.  Angela Haseltine Pozzi an artist and curator of the Washed Ashore Project was troubled by the confetti like mixture of plastics strewn along her local beach and decided to make a difference.  Inspired by the work of the Captain Charles Moore, who first discovered and publicized the North Pacific Garbage Patch, a soupy mixture of floating plastic twice the size of Texas, she undertook a community trash art project.  By attracting visitors with the beauty of her work, Pozzi is trying to teach the public about the horrifying reality of plastics in the sea.  As Pozzi puts it, she uses “the lure of the plastics themselves to get people to come.”  The exhibit runs through the September 28. 

Today, June 8th at 2 p.m Pozzi will make a public presentation that is free with museum admission. More Info.

The Sea is Full of Debris

The amount of floating debris in the world’s ocean is staggering. It has been estimated that some 20 million tons of plastic debris enter the ocean every year. Because plastics don’t biodegrade, the sheer volume of the material in the sea is skyrocketing supported by a growing proliferation of plastic products.  All five of the major ocean gyres serve as repositories for vast quantities of plastics, the bulk of which were erroneously discarded on land. The North Pacific garbage patch, infamous as the world’s largest trash collection, has received the most scientific exploration.  In a 1999 study of zooplankton in the patch, scientists found that plastics outweighed the amount of plankton by a ratio of 6 to 1. Plastics are now so pervasive that entire ecosystems reliant on ocean pollution have evolved and a new word describing this environment, the 'Plastisphere" has become part of our lexicon.

viking_gyre_expeditionResearch on the North Atlantic now Underway

To collect data on garbage in the North Atlantic, 5gyres a marine debris research organization is conducting studies this summer.  Departing today (June 8th) from Bermuda a crew of 14 scientists, conservations and photographers are embarking on a three week expedition to Rekjavik, Iceland . 

You can follow the Sea Dragon on its Viking Gyre Expedition via facebook and on the 5gyres blog.  The sites will be updated with posts on findings and the crew welcomes queries from the public.


New Plastic Source Considered a Threatmicrobead_product

Up until recently, most plastic pollution inadvertantly travelled from land to the marine ecosystem.  Now a new threat is posed by miniscule plastics contained in a host of personal care products that are flushed to the sea through the sewage system.   Products that contain microbeads are made from polyethylene and do not biodegrade. Dr. Kirk Havens of the Virginia Institute of Marine Sciences at William and Mary recently discussed the problem and work being conducted at VIMS to find a biodegradable replacement material produced from bacteria (watch webinar recording). 

There is also momentum to ban microbeads.  California, Illinois and New York state lawmakers are considering bans.  According to Beat the Microbead, a watchdog organization, Unilever, Johnson and Johnson, and Ikea have all pledged to remove microbeads from their products.   Target also recently announded that it is working with vendors to remove plastics from their own branded products. You can follow the latest news about microbeads at the Beat the Microbead website where you can view a listing of microbead products to avoid and also download smartphone apps to scan a product bar code for information on harmful plastics.


Local campaign to reduce plastic use promotes the use of reusable water containers.

Visit the AskHRGreen website to access the TapIt™ Network. Through their website, you can find a listing of local businesses that provide free access to potable water. There you can also download the Hampton Roads App for Android Devices. A local iphone app is coming soon.


our_oceanInternational Ocean Conference 2014

June 16-17, the Department of State is hosting the "Our Ocean" Conference in Washingotn, DC. International experts and lawmakers from the ocean and foreign policy communities will meet to share information on the science and solutions to a host of marine problems including pollution. Participation is by invitation only but the conference will be accessible via the Internet. The provisional conference program is now available. More info.

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