Friday, April 1, 2011

Processing the info and a perfect swim

With the 5th International Marine Debris Conference one week gone, I am still processing the volumes of information I learned there, figuring out how to incorporate new info into our message and programs and sending emails to the amazing people I met so we can stay in touch.

Looking back, here are some more highlights from the conference:
  • There are additions to MARPOL Annex V. This piece of international law prohibits plastic from being dumped overboard in the world's oceans. Until (hopefully) this summer, it still allowed for a fair amount of types of trash and materials to go overboard. The new version will require that ALL ships (from cruise and container ships down to private yachts) keep their trash onboard to be recycled or properly disposed of on land. Yipppeeeee.
  • The Chesapeake Bay sees a loss of 25% of their crab pots per year. They estimate that 4% of the annual catch of this multi-million dollar fishery is wasted due to ghost fishing. It puts some perspective on the consequence of line cutters on props and the need for attentive boathandling in some of the densely fished areas to find a balance.
  • A study on derelict lobster gear in Maine found one trap that had been lost in 1996 and was still killing lobsters. They are not seeing quite the same high yearly percentage of trap loss (closer to 10%) but there is still potential for significant effect on the fishery.We are looking forward to helping to determine just what the situation is on the sea floor off the coast of Maine concerning derelict fishing gear as well as other trash this summer.
  • There was a lot of discussion at the conference about finding marine debris, figuring out how to pick it up and what the trash, especially plastic, does when it mixes with creatures from sea birds to the great whales. But it was also discussed that 70-80% of marine debris comes from land-based sources. And because of that, there was also a lot of excellent discussion on preventing it in the first place through education and packaging. One presenter suggested some more R's to add to Reduce, Reuse, Recycle: Refuse, Return, Remove, Recover, Re-Educate and Re-Engineer.... Right on.

Overall, it was an extremely valuable 6 days both for the information, the opportunity to present Rozalia Project and what we are doing and our methods, the people and the inspiration. The crew from the NOAA Marine Debris Program and UNEP Environment Program did an incredible job of informing, herding, entertaining and feeding 440
people from 35 countries. Out of this conference comes the Honolulu Commitment (endorsed by all attendees) and the Honolulu Strategy (soon to be finalized), standardized data cards for debris monitoring and pick up (hopefully) and connections and ideas that will reduce marine debris and the damage it is doing across the world both at sea and on land.

The conference ended with a few extra treats. First, during the final lunch, we had a 3
song serenade by Jack Johnson. I think his voice is better in person than recorded and he is a big supporter the ocean and its cleanliness.

For me, however, the real treat came on the morning of the day I flew back to Vermont. The Nygards, my amazing hosts, took me up to the North Shore. We checked out some famous surf spots: Pipeline and Sunset both of which had small waves but were beautiful. We went to some really cool local art fairs and met some talented Hawaiian craftspeople.

And then we went to Waimea Bay. And I had one of the best ocean swims ever. It was
uncharacteristically flat as a pancake. The water was an indescribable clear, clear, blue-green and the deeper we dove, the more clear the whale songs and the dolphin clicks. We never saw the animals, but could hear them loud and clear. Amazing. Honestly, I did not need any additional inspiration after the week at the conference. But if I did, hearing the whales and dolphins, was it.

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