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Ocean Trash: Polluting Seas and Killing Sea Lions

Ocean Trash: Polluting Seas and Killing Sea Lions

Ocean trash is invading our seas and turning pristine waters into literal garbage dumps. You know when the garbage disposal clogs up and there’s bits and pieces of kitchen scraps and gunk floating in your dirty sink? … Yeah, well that debris-filled mess bears a scary resemblance to parts of the Pacific Ocean. 

I recently had the pleasure of hearing Mary Crowley, President of Ocean Voyages Institute and founder of Project Kaisei (the Institute’s clean up initiative), and Dr. Bill van Bonn, staff vet at The Marine Mammal Center, a marine animal hospital and education center, speak about ocean trash — a huge problem affecting our oceans that ALL of us have the power to prevent.

Help reduce ocean trash and save lives! Participate in Coastal Cleanup.

Crowley’s been sailing since age four, and has seen the amount of ocean trash plaguing the Pacific dramatically increase. She knows sailors who’ve been gliding through the water and suddenly found themselves surrounded by garbage….for days.

The most shocking part of Crowley’s voyages? That most of the trash she picks up is regular household items — toothbrushes, bits of plastic, even car fenders! Seventy percent of plastic found in the ocean is from watersheds, beaches, litter, or it blows out of landfills and finds its way to a river. Items we use everyday and would never even THINK would end up in the ocean are making their way to sea, polluting our waters and endangering marine wildlife.

And it’s not just physical trash that’s turning our ocean into a dump — chemical and biological pollution also harm the water and the animals that call it home. The toxic substances we pour down our storm drains, or even household sinks, can flow to the ocean and infect sea lions, dolphins and other marine life.

But by far, the most harrowing and heart-wrenching part of the nights presentations were the photos of animals who came to The Marine Mammal Center because of injuries after ingesting or becoming tangled in our trash. I saw photos of sea lions with bloody, swollen lesions around their necks from packing strips they got tangled up in and one with a piece of a reflector strip sticking out of his mouth — the rest of the strip lodged in his throat and stomach. These animals’ home is becoming a minefield of our trash, and even more tragic is that these animals are the LUCKY ones. Many don’t make it to the center and die out at sea.

Watch some of The Marine Mammal Center’s rehabilitated seal pups go home:

We’re fortunate that people like Mary Crowley are out trawling the ocean for our trash and vets like Dr. van Bonn are able to find, at least, some marine animals and rehabilitate them back to health. But the fact is, our ocean trash is doing a lot of damage. And it will take a much bigger effort to fix this problem we caused. Every time we use plastic grocery bags or water bottles, pour old medication down the sink or toilet, throw away six-pack rings without cutting them up first…we’re contributing to ocean trash and endangering fish, seals, sea lions, dolphins, turtles, and everyone else who has to live in our garbage.

Saturday September 25th is California’s Coastal Cleanup Day. If you’re in California, I urge you to be a part of this joint effort in cleaning up our coastline. And even if you’re not, please help clean our coasts and do everything you can to reduce ocean trash, restore ocean ecosystems and save marine wildlife.

You can also use your butterfly rewards to feed a seal a snack!

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Photo from Alan Vernon of Flickr.

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101 comments

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8:45AM PST on Nov 15, 2012

I'm worried those antennae on the tops of their heads will get caught in fishing nets or sea garbage. Other than that, it's nice to see them go back to their mother.... the sea.

3:19PM PDT on Sep 30, 2012

EARTH CRY video

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jppmMcjgWS0

11:59AM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

Look what we've done. It sickens me to my core.

1:56PM PST on Dec 31, 2011

i make an effort everyday of my life. when ever i go to feed the ducks the birds and the wildlife. am always cleaning ,i pick up sodas cans bottles of water what ever.

1:52PM PST on Dec 31, 2011

nobody cares anymore, its very sad. animals pay the concecuencies

10:51PM PST on Dec 12, 2011

How sad. Won't humans ever learn?

3:42PM PDT on Oct 4, 2011

It's their world too not just ours.

5:29PM PDT on Oct 3, 2011

Thanks.

5:59AM PDT on Aug 1, 2011

We must all, everyone of us, commit to walking lighter on this planet. We much all commit to valuing and protecting all life.

1:00AM PDT on Jul 29, 2011

This is a very sad story. Other animals has to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy averything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

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The British didn't think much of Indians. Maybe they were on to something.

What a tragedy that we humans have to abuse animals to feel good and to survive in the world. I am thrilled…

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