March 11, 2012 marks the one-year anniversary of the tragic Tohoku earthquake and tsunami in Japan. Because millions of tons of debris flooded into the sea from this catastrophic event, it’s understandable that people are concerned about tsunami-related material washing onto Southern California beaches. Learn more.
Millions of pounds of trash find their way into our oceans every day. Urban runoff carries the detritus of daily life -- be it carelessly discarded bottle tops or potato chip bags – directly to the shores. From abandoned fishing gear to plastic bags, this trash turns pristine waters throughout the world into garbage dumps.
Plastics, the number one kind of trash found in the ocean, can choke or entangle marine life, and trash littering our communities and beaches is an obvious eyesore. But there are other, more ominous reasons to keep trash out of the sea. When plastic debris hits the water, it can accumulate other chemicals and toxins, like PCBs. Although there needs to be more research on this topic, these chemicals may accumulate in the flesh of the fish when fish mistake plastic for food. And what if those chemicals were to end up on our dinner plates?
Unfortunately, plastic simply doesn’t degrade in the ocean environment. Instead, it breaks into smaller and smaller pieces, subsisting for hundreds of years and fundamentally altering the chemistry of the sea.
Heal the Bay is working to end the plastic plague in several different ways. We are working with local governments to develop plastic bag and Styrofoam bans. There are also now pollution limits for trash in some local rivers and creeks. And our volunteer beach cleanup crews use our Marine Debris Database to keep track of the trash they pick up, so we can use that information to inform our advocacy efforts.
In June 2012, Heal the Bay began conducting the first tsunami debris monitoring of Los Angeles area beaches in partnership with the NOAA Marine Debris Program. Monthly monitoring efforts will help gather information about
how trash and debris accumulates on our local
beaches over time. Read more.
We all can help cut down on the amount of trash entering our waters, be it properly disposing of rubbish or petitioning local governments to adopt anti-litter measures. It’s up to each of us.