Our oceans are facing many challenges. The good news is, more and more organizations, groups, and movements are springing up to combat them.
Erin Politz is the Vice President of The SeaChange Agency, a nonprofit organization on a mission to improve oceanic ecosystems. We spoke to Erin about the agency’s fantastic projects, and about what we can all do in our everyday lives to make a difference.
What would you say is the biggest problem (or problems) facing endangered marine species today?
Erin Pollitz (EP): There are so many issues… but I would say overfishing! The ocean is a very delicate eco-system.
Many of the animals that live in the ocean are being fished to the point of extinction.
We recommend limiting your consumption, or cutting seafood out of your diet to help reduce the demand for seafood. Much of the fish coming out of the ocean today has a staggering concentration of mercury, PCBs and other contaminants. So if not for the health of the oceans, do it for your own! And don’t fret, there is hope! We have the ingenuity to save the ocean, we just need to employ it, and need all hands on deck!
The agency is behind the cleverly-named anti-plastic movement, PluckFastic. What can people do to reduce their plastic use?
EP: Choose to Refuse Straws! Plastic straws remain in our environment for over 200 years and cannot be recycled. If you really miss using a straw, invest a few dollars in metal or glass straws, and keep them in your purse or wallet.
• Bring your own water bottle. Fill up your reusable water bottle from a drinking fountain.
• Bring your own canvas bags to the grocery store.
• Lastly, forego the produce bags or bring your own. Produce can be placed in your cart without a bag! It all gets washed when you get home anyway.
How can people start their own local chapter of PluckFastic if the movement doesn’t yet exist in their area?
EP: The PluckFastic movement is really just about organizing people with a unified voice to focus on making an impact on plastic pollution. It is as easy as encouraging your local community to reduce their plastic use! Ways to start can be as simple as removing plastic cups from your office and replacing them with paper, or encouraging people to bring a reusable water bottle. Any change helps, and will cause a ripple effect!
Organize cleanups in your neighborhood. Even if the cleanup is not at the beach, removing litter ultimately helps the trash stay out of our oceans. People love it! They get to have some fun, and do some good at the same time, so be creative!
Lastly, make sure to toss anything that can be recycled into a recycle bin so that it can be turned into something else and not end up in our ocean. Because truth is, recyclable does not necessarily mean recycled.
Do you think the tide is changing?
EP: Yes, I do think the tide is changing, but we need to speed it up! Many cities have now banned the use of plastic bags. France has banned plastic plates and cutlery! This is great progress, and hopefully will serve as a blueprint for other countries to follow.
In California, both the cities of Manhattan Beach and Malibu have completely banned straws. (Editor’s Note: Likewise, locally Seaside, Florida has a no plastic straw rule in effect at all Seaside establishments.) The Queen of England has announced that straws are no longer available at their residence. Straws are not necessary, and so wasteful! We can do this!
You also run another great project called Kurma. What makes sea turtles so special and why is it important to protect them?
EP: Kurma is the sea turtle avatar from ancient Indian legend. Brock Cahill, the founder of our organization is an avid ocean lover.
In 2010 news broke out that turtles were being burned alive during the gulf oil spill cleanup attempts. Brock sprang into action.
He partnered with the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society to rescue as much aquatic life as possible, and hold BP accountable for their crimes against nature.
Upon his return home Brock launched our organization to continue his efforts with sea turtles, and ocean restoration. On Facebook, find them at Kurmalliance.
Some turtles can live to be 200-300 years! Due to this fact, sea turtles are vulnerable and telling barometers for the overall health of the oceans, and they face many massive hurdles in their battle for survival.
Do you have any upcoming events or projects people should know about?
Yes! Please help us end driftnet fishing in California by signing this petition!
EP: Endangered leatherback sea turtles, sharks, dolphins, whales and other marine mammals are being mercilessly killed off the coast of California by a fishing method intended to catch swordfish, but indiscriminately scoops up many other species.
To stay up to date on events please follow us on social media and sign up for the mailing list on their website theseachangeagency.org.
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TANIA BRAUKAMPER is an Australian-born writer and photographer rcurrently living in Portugal. She’s obsessed with photographing sunsets and going for long coastal hikes, and always does her best to schedule her travel plans into an endless summer.