Conservation & Science

El impacto profundo del micro-plástico

(For English, click here.)

(Subtítulos en español están disponibles)

Existe un vasto ecosistema que se extiende muy por debajo de la superficie del océano, en donde la luz es escasa, aumenta la presión y la vida toma formas que bien podrían parecer extraterrestres. Pero incluso ahí, un lugar que parece un mundo apartado de la sociedad humana, nuestra basura plástica se está acumula.

Los científicos del Acuario y del MBARI tomaron muestras de la contaminación por micro-plástico en las aguas profundas usando el vehículo operado remotamente Ventana. Foto: cortesía del MBARI

En el mar profundo, resulta desafiante estudiar dónde se acumula ese plástico y cómo afecta a los animales. Por ello, los científicos del Monterey Bay Aquarium en colaboración con nuestros aliados del Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) lanzaron un ambicioso proyecto.

Los resultados del estudio en el cual se examina el  micro-plástico en las aguas de la Bahía de Monterey, fue publicado el 6 de junio por la revista Scientific Reports.

“Hemos diseñado este estudio para dar respuesta a una brecha fundamental en nuestro conocimiento sobre el plástico marino una vez que este llega al océano” indica la autora principal Anela Choy, anteriormente investigadora del MBARI y actual profesora del Scripps Institution of Oceanography en San Diego.

Los investigadores del MBARI recolectaron larváceos y sus filtros mucosos de alimentación usando vehículos de comando remoto. Foto: cortesía del MBARI.

El equipo de investigación recolectó datos usando vehículos de comando remoto (ROV, por sus siglas en inglés) —submarinos robóticos diseñados por ingenieros del MBARI— para recolectar muestras de agua en profundidades de entre 200 y 600 metros (unos 650 a 2,000 pies).

También buscaron plástico en animales que cumplen importantes funciones en las redes alimentarias marinas: langostinos pelágicos y seres parecidos a los renacuajos llamados larváceos gigantes, que se rodean con nubes de mucosa cuya función es capturar alimento y, en ellos, los investigadores descubrieron plástico.

“Los problemas como este son extremadamente complicados. Para intentar descubrir la manera de resolverlos se requiere de muchas herramientas distintas,” —menciona Kyle Van Houtan, científico principal del Acuario, quien realizó el estudio en coautoría con Anela y otros nueve investigadores de diversos campos que abarcan desde Fisicoquímica hasta Ecología Marina—. Read more…

The deep impact of microplastic

 

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There’s a vast ecosystem stretching far below the ocean’s surface — one where the light dims, the pressure mounts, and life takes on forms that can seem downright alien. But even there, a place that seems a world apart from human society, our plastic trash is building up.

Scientists from the Aquarium and MBARI sampled microplastic pollution in the deep waters of Monterey Bay using the ROV Ventana. Photo courtesy MBARI

In the deep sea, it’s a challenge to study where that plastic accumulates and how it affects animals. So scientists at the Monterey Bay Aquarium and our partners at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) launched an ambitious collaboration.

The resulting study, which examined microplastic in the waters of Monterey Bay, was published June 6 in the journal Scientific Reports.

“We designed this study to answer a fundamental gap in our knowledge of marine plastic once it reaches the ocean,” says lead author Anela Choy, a former MBARI researcher and now a professor at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego.

MBARI researchers collected larvaceans and their mucus feeding filters using its remotely operated vehicles. Photo courtesy MBARI.

The research team gathered data by using remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), robotic submarines designed by MBARI engineers, to collect water samples at depths from 200 to 600 meters (about 650 to 2,000 feet).

They also searched for plastic in animals with important roles in the marine food web: pelagic red crabs; and tadpole-like creatures called giant larvaceans, which surround themselves with clouds of mucus that capture food — and, as the researchers discovered, plastic.

“Problems like this are extremely complicated. To try and figure out how to solve them, you need a lot of different tools,” says Aquarium Chief Scientist Kyle Van Houtan, who co-authored the paper with Anela and nine others, tapping fields from physical chemistry to marine ecology. Read more…

Acceso para personas discapacitadas y conservación de los océanos: Juntos somos más fuertes

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El año pasado, el Acuario pidió a los legisladores de California que aprobaran el proyecto de Ley Straws On Request (popotes a petición). A medida que esa ley entra en vigor, y las comunidades de la Bahía de Monterey adoptan nuevas leyes locales para reducir el uso de plástico de un solo uso, trabajamos con nuestros colegas de la comunidad de discapacitados para asegurarnos de que cualquier persona que necesite un popote de plástico pueda tener acceso a ella.

En el artículo de hoy, Allie Cannington de la Red de Organización de Personas con Discapacidad (DOnetwork por sus siglas en inglés) discute los resultados de un nuevo estudio que evalúa la conveniencia de alternativas a los popotes o popotes de plástico de un sólo uso para las personas que las necesitan. DOnetwork es un programa de la Fundación de Centros para la Vida Independiente de California, financiado por el Departamento de Rehabilitación y el Consejo Estatal para la Vida Independiente.


A partir del 1 de enero de 2019, los restaurantes de servicio completo en California sólo podrán ofrecer popotes cuando los clientes los soliciten. Al mismo tiempo, algunas ciudades y condados de los Estados Unidos están aprobando leyes locales que restringen los popotes y otros materiales plásticos de un sólo uso.

Read more…

Honoring a new slate of California Ocean Champions in Sacramento

On March 19, 2019, hundreds of ocean advocates gathered in Sacramento to discuss ocean and coastal issues with state decision-makers during Ocean Day California. In the evening, the Aquarium hosted its tenth annual awards reception for about 200 state officials and legislators, their staff and ocean leaders from across the state. 

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Guests enjoy the spread by Tataki Sushi & Sake Bar, featuring Seafood Watch Best Choice fish and vegan sushi.

Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard presented four state legislators with our 2019 Ocean Champion Awards, honoring their significant contributions to California’s ocean and coastal leadership. The award is part of the aquarium’s work to inspire and inform government decision-makers to take science-based action on behalf of the ocean.

“California has become a beacon of hope for the nation, and for the world,” Julie said. “Our state is living proof that environmental and economic health are inextricably linked.”

Read more…

Leading the way in sustainable hospitality

The Monterey Bay Aquarium isn’t alone in its drive to inspire conservation and host visitors sustainably. Thanks to steps by the Monterey County Convention & Visitors Bureau and others, the region is increasingly positioning itself as a leader in sustainable hospitality—and earning recognition for its commitment.

For visitors and local businesses, following sustainable practices has become a defining characteristic of Monterey County.

Building on the area’s unique advantages, like having the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary in its backyard, the Aquarium is leveraging results far beyond its doors, says Public Affairs Director Barbara Meister.

“The Aquarium is well-known and recognized, so to the extent that we can help with messaging or bring other partners along—whether hotels that are reducing plastic use or restaurants that are serving Seafood Watch-approved species—all that bodes well for our mission,” Barbara says.

Local fisherman Jerry Wetle brings sustainably caught sablefish to area restaurants by working with the Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust.

The multifaceted push marks the latest chapter in the area’s long history of working to protect its environmental assets, she says. In recent years, communities around Monterey Bay have opted to draw only renewable energy from the electric power grid, to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Monterey Bay Fisheries Trust is helping fishing crews connect with regional restaurants to serve locally caught seafood.

International recognition

Last year, Monterey County became internationally ranked on the Global Destination Sustainability Index, which will help track its progress going forward. (Only three U.S. destinations have qualified, and Monterey County is the greenest of the three.)

The CVB has also partnered with Positive Impact, a global not-for-profit that works to foster sustainability in the events industry. And with Monterey’s newly renovated conference center working toward LEED Platinum certification, the region is increasingly enticing to corporate clients and event planners for whom sustainability is a priority. Read more…

Disability access and ocean conservation: Stronger together

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Last year, the Aquarium called on California legislators to pass the Straws On Request billAs that law takes effect—and Monterey Bay communities adopt new local laws to cut back on single-use plastic—we’re working with our colleagues in the Disability community to ensure that anyone who needs a plastic straw can still access one.

In today’s guest post, Allie Cannington of the Disability Organizing (DO) Network discusses the results of a new study assessing the suitability of alternatives to plastic single-use straws for people who need them. DOnetwork is a program of the California Foundation for Independent Living Centers, funded through the Department of Rehabilitation and State Independent Living Council.


As of January 1, 2019, full-service restaurants in California may only provide straws when customers ask for them. At the same time, some cities and counties across the United States are passing local laws restricting straws and other single-use plastic materials.

At first glance, straw bans—intended to slow the rate of plastic pollution, particularly in our ocean—may seem beneficial for everyone. And yet, they can also threaten the independence of many people with disabilities.

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Russell Rawlings, left, tests a reusable stainless steel straw with a silicone tip as part of the Disability Organizing Network’s study.

Russell Rawlings, a Disabled advocate from Sacramento, reminds us that straws are an assistive technology tool. The AT Industry Association defines assistive technology as “any item, piece of equipment, software program, or product system that is used to increase, maintain, or improve the functional capabilities of persons with disabilities.” Other well-known examples of assistive technology include wheelchairs, hearing aids and speech-to-text technology.

Hundreds of thousands of people with disabilities rely on straws as assistive technology every day. Historically and to this day, single-use plastic straws have provided people with disabilities access to independence, community integration and public life.

“Bottom line, straws enable me to access hydration with dignity,” Russell says. “Would it be possible to hydrate without them? Only if I had assistance. Do I feel the same level of dignity in a public setting without them? Absolutely not.”

Read more…

Ringing in the New Year with resolutions to cut plastic

The dawn of a new year is a traditional time to address our excesses—whether it’s too many calories, too much spending or too much screen time. This year, several Monterey Bay communities are ringing in 2019 with newly adopted resolutions to cut back on single-use plastic.

In December 2018, the city of Monterey voted to limit the use of disposable plastic service ware in food establishments throughout the city. Earlier in the month, Santa Cruz County adopted a new law targeting single-use plastic packaging for personal care products in the hospitality industry.

Both laws aim to curtail waste and protect Monterey Bay from plastic pollution. They’re part of a global wave of action, from the local to national levels, to slow the flow of plastic from land to sea.

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A plastic bag floats in the ocean. Photo by Patrick Kelley / Marine Photobank

Our growing plastic problem

Scientists estimate that around 9 million tons of plastic make their way from land to sea every year. That’s like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute, injuring marine animals that mistake plastic for food or get tangled in it.

If we don’t make changes, scientists say, the rate of ocean plastic pollution will double by 2025. Manufacturers are producing more plastic than ever before, and our ability to recycle it just isn’t keeping up. The Royal Statistical Society recently shined a spotlight on the gap: Its International Statistic of 2018 is 90.5 percentthe proportion of plastic waste that has never been recycled.

Governments around the world, from the local to national levels, are addressing the problem through new laws to restrict single-use plastic products, improve waste management and protect the ocean from plastic pollution. In the long term, these actions support a transition away from single-use plastic, toward more ocean-friendly alternatives. Read more…

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