Wednesday, March 23, 2011

The trash all looks the same

I am here in Honolulu for the 5th International Marine Debris Conference, and am a lucky and better person for it. I have learned an incredible amount and met smart, amazing people who are as dedicated as they are able to get on and deal with the problems of marine debris. And we are only at the start of the middle day

There are people here presenting on projects and studies happening all over the world and I have to say that one striking observation is that I have now seen hundreds of photos of beaches with piles of trash and debris... and they all look the same. A gear ball on a beach in Korea looks the same as those found in the NW islands of Hawaii, or in Maryland, or by me and James on the beaches of Rockport, MA last week. One consistent message here is that it is one ocean and we are all connected. I knew that, but seeing the photos puts out some good supporting evidence.

Some highlights so far:
-A presentation by Jean-Michel Cousteau. He is (appropriately) pissed about the state of the oceans but has some incredible experiences he shared and an overall message of hope. AND I got to have a chat and a photo with him. I would have been happy to meet any member of the Cousteau family including the family dog, but having a chat with the man who is carrying on Jacques Cousteau's mission was very cool.

-A workshop on the hydrodynamics of marine debris taught by some of the brightest oceanographers in the world. Some of what I learned will directly help our research coming up this summer looking for increased accumulation zones around the Eastern Maine Coastal Current and I have a new appreciation for statistics classes.

-A presentation by Amber York from WHOI (Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute) on a project called HabCam which is an incredibly high resolution camera towed behind a boat. She showed evidence of plastic bottles and other similar debris we find 70+ miles offshore. That is something we are looking forward to doing more work on investigating.

-Presentations by Kara Lavender-Law and other scientists from SEA (Sea Education
Association) on their work on micro-plastics in the North Atlantic. Check it out in the Journal Science. And it is cool that so long ago on Westward-111, I helped gather some of the data (plastic) they used in their study.

There is so much more... a marine debris art exhibit, presentation from the Ocean Conservancy, and just meeting people from all over the world who feel the same way I do about the ocean and trash in it.

Today I have a workshop on outreach efforts and spreading accurate and inspiring information about the problem followed by marine debris movie night. I can't wait... but first my awesome hosts are taking me swimming off Diamond Head. I will say hello to the fishes for all of you and send another report soon.

For a clean ocean,



  1. This is great, Rachael! Was great talking with you at the conference and hope to talk again/get together soon.

  2. Thanks Jen. I agree it was great to see you at the conference (and excellent to hear Blue Ocean Society's commitments to the general audience). We're looking forward to coming your way this summer!