Conservation & Science

Make it a Plastic-Free July!

Summertime is pretty much one big YAY: fireworks, barbecues, trips to the beach. It’s the time of year we tend to appreciate the ocean the most — whether we’re surfing in it, taking a cruise on it or kicking back on the sand beside it.

But all of these awesome moments can come with a cost. We’re trashing our coasts and ocean with single-use plastic, whether it’s in the form of bags, bottles or packaging. These throwaway items may seem convenient in the short term, but we can make more thoughtful choices for our planet’s future.

Read more…

For sea turtles, a diet worse than junk food

A Pacific leatherback turtle in Monterey Bay breaks the surface about every two hours, taking a deep breath of air before going back under to hunt for jellyfish. Leatherbacks use their powerful flippers to propel themselves forward and grab a gelatinous mouthful.

Leatherback hatchlings_Jeroen Looye_flickrCC
Mabibi – LEATHERBACK TURTLE” by Jeroen Looyé is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Only it might not be a jellyfish.

It might be a plastic bag, perhaps one of the 13 billion disposable grocery bags that Californians use each year. Scientists are finding single-use bags, cosmetic microbeads and other types of plastic litter throughout the ocean, even in the deepest submarine canyons. Globally, an estimated 8 million metric tons reach the ocean every year.

Plastic doesn’t biodegrade. Instead, it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces, persisting in the environment. That makes plastic pollution a major threat to marine ecosystems—and sea turtles are among the most vulnerable ocean animals.

“The enormity of the problem, the scale of the pollution and the vast impact have only really been appreciated in the last decade,” says Kyle Van Houtan, Monterey Bay Aquarium’s director of science. “Sea turtles are good indicators of the challenges the ocean faces right now.”

Read more…

Letise LaFeir: Making waves for ocean health in California

Letise LaFeir
Letise LaFeir, California Ocean Policy Manager for Monterey Bay Aquarium

Above the sparkling waves of the Pacific, Monterey Bay Aquarium inspires nearly two million visitors each year to care more — and do more — to protect the health of the ocean.

Toward that end, Letise LaFeir, the Aquarium’s California ocean policy manager, focuses much of her energy on decisions made in the state capital, almost 200 miles to the northeast.

Drawing from her experience in marine science, ocean policy, education and public outreach, Letise encourages legislative and government officials to keep up California’s leadership on ocean and coastal health issues.

 We asked her to tell us more about two major issues she’s working on: climate change and ocean plastic pollution.


 What’s your role at the aquarium, as it relates to climate change?

Communicating about climate change, making sure people get it, is a top priority to help drive action on this issue. It’s important, and it’s affecting us right now.

 Organizations like ours, and the vast majority of scientists, agree that climate change is happening, and that humans are causing it. But we still have hurdles to get over with particular policymakers. There are some who understand, and are looking for solutions and guidance. Others, unfortunately, are still saying climate change isn’t real or isn’t our problem.

At a high level, we’re getting certain policymakers to just accept that we’re already seeing and feeling the impacts of a changing climate, and that planning sooner rather than later will actually be a benefit in the long run — even if that individual policymaker isn’t here to see that benefit.

Then we help them move from understanding to action. Part of the work we do is putting the experts in front of policymakers to answer very specific questions to help them make and implement their decisions.

Read more…

We’re educating California leaders about ocean plastic pollution

Plastic is one of the most common materials in our daily lives. We drink from plastic cups, wear clothing made of plastic fibers and buy products sealed in plastic packaging. We’re surrounded by these petrochemical-based polymers, but we don’t yet fully understand them. Especially when it comes to questions about how plastic trash affects the ocean environment — and our own health.

In January, Monterey Bay Aquarium and the California Latino Legislative Caucus hosted a Capitol briefing on the impacts of plastic pollution on the state’s ocean and waterways. Addressing an audience of legislative staff, state officials and conservationists, the expert panel presented eye-opening facts about the science and policy behind the problem.

Bottle in water_FlickrCC_Kate Ter Haar
Pollution” by Kate Ter Haar is licensed under CC BY 2.0.

Dr. Roland Geyer, associate professor of industrial ecology at the University of California, Santa Barbara, has investigated just how much plastic is flowing to the sea, and where it’s coming from.

Using solid waste data from 2010, he calculated that 192 coastal countries produced 275 million metric tons of plastic waste that year. Of that amount, he estimates 8 million metric tons entered the ocean — enough to cover an area 34 times the size of Manhattan ankle-deep in plastic marine debris. And that input rate is likely increasing each year.

What can we do about it? Roland sees two big opportunities for change in California: Reducing litter, and producing less plastic waste in the first place.

Read more…

#MyBag #MiBolsa: Take a stand against single-use plastic bags

Ocean plastic pollution is a problem  a big problem – for the health of the ocean and ocean wildlife. In California, we’re making progress by tackling it on several fronts.

Right now, the Legislature is close to passing the nation’s strongest law to eliminate the use of non-biodegradable microbeads in consumer products. In recent years, cities and counties throughout California have banned single-use plastic bags. And in 2014, California enacted a statewide ban on disposable plastic shopping bags, authored by three of the Aquarium’s 2015 Ocean Champion Award winners – Secretary of State (and former state senator) Alex Padilla, State Senate President Pro Tem Kevin de León and State Senator Ricardo Lara.

Green sea turtle trying to eat a plastic bag It seems a jellyfish
Sea turtles often mistake plastic bags for a favorite snack, jellyfish.

That law established California as a leader in the fight against the growing tide of ocean plastic pollution. It was supposed to take effect on July 1 – until out-of-state plastic bag companies spent millions of dollars to force the issue onto the November 2016 ballot. Without the law, each year as many as 13 billion plastic bags will be sold in California that would otherwise not be sold. Every bag could potentially make its way to the ocean.

Implementation of a statewide ban on single-use bags has been delayed, but not derailed. Victory over the effort to repeal this law is a top Aquarium priority, as taking steps backward is unacceptable. We’re asking you join us and Say Yes on the referendum to keep this law: Say Yes to a plastic-free ocean. Say Yes to reusable shopping bags. Say Yes to California’s leadership on this critical issue.

Read more…

%d bloggers like this: