Blog Tags: Pollution
Ordinances to ban single-use plastic bags are picking up steam here in California. A growing list of cities and counties in the state are taking action to get rid of this frequent source of pollution, which trashes our beautiful rivers and beaches and causes undue harm to wildlife.
Did you know that 19 billion plastic grocery bags are distributed in California each year, many of which end up as litter?
When plastic enters marine waters, it continually breaks up into smaller and smaller pieces that absorb toxic chemicals. Chemical laden plastic pieces are then ingested by wildlife and enter the food chain that we depend upon. In addition, animals can inadvertently ingest or choke on plastic bags. Over 267 species of marine wildlife have been affected by plastic bag litter.
One species in particular is the endangered Pacific leatherback sea turtle. The largest of all sea turtles, the leatherback swims an incredible 6,000 miles from its nesting beaches in Indonesia to California waters to feed on jellyfish. These prehistoric turtles easily mistake plastic bags swirling in the water for jellies and once ingested the turtles suffer dire consequences like malnutrition, starvation, intestinal blockage, suffocation, and drowning. One study found that one third of Pacific leatherbacks autopsied had plastic in their gastrointestinal tract.
Good thing we have alternatives to plastic bags like re-useable cloth bags, some of which you can even wash after a few visits to the grocery or department store. Re-useable bags also come in handy for other errands and outings like the local farmers market or an afternoon at the beach.
To date, 19 cities and 6 counties in California either have adopted or fully implemented plastic bag bans. Another 44 cities and 6 counties are in process of considering such a ban. The California Supreme Court also recently ruled that expensive Environmental Impact Reports are not required for cities to implement these bans, making it much easier to take action. This map shows cities and counties moving forward to ban plastic bags to date in California. We're asking our Californian supporters to help us fill in the map and ask your local city council to consider banning single-use plastic bags in your area.
And whether or not your hometown has jumped on board with these bans, you can do your part to reduce plastic trash. Take a pledge today to use less plastic, and help keep the oceans a little cleaner.
The impacts of the Deepwater Horizon are being felt in -- you guessed it -- Minnesota.
White pelicans that winter in the Gulf of Mexico and have lived in an oiled Gulf have migrated to far away places such as Minnesota to lay eggs, and the contaminants inside them have traveled as well.
Preliminary testing by the Minnesota Department of Natural Resources shows that petroleum compounds were present in 90 percent of the first batch of eggs tested and nearly 80 percent of the eggs contained the chemical dispersant used during the spill, called COREXIT.
The contamination of white pelican eggs is a bad sign for the developing embryos and potentially their populations. The researchers will be continuing to monitor impacts on the population for years to come, and the true impacts may not be realized for decades.
Mark Clark, a researcher helping with these studies, says, “Any contaminant that makes its way into the bird could be bad, but it could be especially bad if it gets into the egg because that's where the developing embryo and chick starts. And when things go wrong at that stage, there's usually no recovery."
The immediate loss of pelicans and other birds that were covered in oil during the spill was amazingly disheartening and graphic. But these types of sub-lethal impacts show how the next generation may be affected.
While these effects are less noticeable, they are even more concerning for the future of the population. Nearly half of all the bird species that live in the United States spend at least part of the winter in the Gulf of Mexico, and the health of the Gulf is globally significant for birds.
After the Exxon Valdez spill, more than 88% of the birds that were found dead were outside of Prince William Sound, the area immediately affected by the spill, and the number of dead birds found was only a fraction of the total killed by the spill.
The combination of those direct losses, poor reproductive success and changes in the habitat, has prevented some species from recovering, even 20 years later. Although we don’t yet know the long-term impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill, these contaminants in eggs serve as a warning sign of things to come.
We need to make sure that BP and the other responsible parties are held accountable for the impacts of the Deepwater Horizon spill that have likely impacted hundreds to thousands of species.
Even more importantly we need to recognize that these contaminated eggs, and the ongoing damages to wildlife, are part of the overall problem with offshore drilling and spilling. We have much better options for energy, such as offshore wind, and we should use them.
Our team in Chile has produced a powerful video, and we are excited to share it with you.
The video shows dramatic images and real testimonies from the people of Ventanas, in central Chile, which is severely affected by the pollution from coal-fired power plants and a copper refinery.
Earlier this month, a toxic cloud appeared containing levels of sulfur dioxide 10 times higher than the maximum limit established by the World Health Organization. In response to this and several other major pollution events over the past year, Oceana has been calling on the government to close the industries that operate in that area, at least until a health inspection is completed, and someone is held responsible for the pollution.
Our campaigners in Chile are also working to prohibit the installation of new polluting or dangerous industries in areas already declared as highly polluted. Sadly, Ventanas is just one example of many communities in Chile that are affected by severe pollution. The environmental costs of the thermoelectric industries and coal refineries are unfairly concentrated in these communities, and their residents are suffering from environmental discrimination.
Stay tuned for more videos that will feature other areas in Chile that are suffering a similar reality. Give today to support our work to protect Chile’s people and marine life from severe pollution.
As a part of European Maritime Day, today Oceana’s team in the Baltic released some initial findings from the ongoing expedition. They presented guidelines for the protection of the Baltic Sea, including rules for sustainable fisheries management, habitat protection and ending harmful fishing subsidies.
The expedition team has been documenting the incredible biodiversity of the Baltic; check out the latest photos - from beautiful nudibranchs to grey seals to a dead jellyfish in the oxygen-deprived bottom of the deepest part of the Baltic:
These photos reveal the impact of pollution, overfishing and destructive fishing practices on the Baltic, but they also show areas with healthy ecosystems and rich biodiversity, providing a window into what the Baltic Sea could look like if Marine Protected Areas are expanded and well-protected, and if laws and regulations are fully enforced.
Studies have shown that such enhanced protection measures and more stringent management of fish resources would benefit fishermen and local communities dependent on fisheries, as well as at-risk ecosystems.
Stay tuned for more from our team in the Baltic!
Guest blogger Jon Bowermaster is a writer and filmmaker. In this post, Jon reports on the state of corals in Bora Bora.
Bora Bora, Society Islands, French Polynesia – I dove last week in the beautiful lagoon that surrounds the tall island to have a first hand look at how the coral reef is doing in this South Pacific resort island. The report is not good.
Descending to 90 feet, it was immediately clear that the reef has been hammered in the past few years. I’ve come here every year for the past decade and have seen incredible change.
I spent most of the morning observing the still-growing reef system just 10 to 30 feet below the surface. Although the waters are warm and magnificently clear, invasive predators and natural disaster have both taken big tolls.
Populations of acanthaster -- also known as the crown-of-thorns starfish – mysteriously arrived in Polynesia in 2006. No one is sure exactly how they got here or where they originated, though invasive species are well known for hitching rides on cargo ships and jumping off far from home. Here in the shallows surrounding Bora Bora – as they have done to reefs on nearby Moorea, Raiatea-Tahaa, Huahine and Maupiti – the predatory starfish have devoured hundreds of acres of coral.
A very happy birthday to E, the Environmental Magazine, which recently turned 20 years old. A lot has happened in the environmental world in those two decades, and a lot has also stayed the same.
This excerpt of their article retrospective brings to mind some all-too-familiar ocean threats. (Oh, and thanks for the shout-out):
"A fish in a net was the cover model for E’s July/August 1996 feature on overfishing. With the headline “Vacuuming the Sea,” the article reported that 70% of the world’s marine fish stocks had been heavily exploited.
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- Ocean Roundup: Deep Sea Sediments Act as Microplastic Sinks, Risso’s Dolphins Stranding in High Numbers, and More Posted Thu, December 18, 2014
- Coral Reefs Turning Silent from Overfishing, Other Human Impacts Posted Thu, December 11, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Task Force Releases Recommendations on Seafood Fraud, Sea Otters Critical to Healthy Marshes, and More Posted Tue, December 16, 2014