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Minke whale © Ursula Tscherter - ORES

The whale trappers are back with their cruel experiment

Anyone walking past my window might have heard my groan of disbelief at the news...
Boto © Fernando Trujillo

Meet the legendary pink river dolphins

Botos don't look or live like other dolphins. Flamingo-pink all over with super-skinny snouts and...
Risso's dolphin entangled in fishing line and plastic bags - Andrew Sutton

The ocean is awash with plastic – can we ever clean it up?

You've seen pictures of plastic litter accumulating on beaches or marine wildlife swimming through floating...
Fin whale

Is this the beginning of the end for whaling off Iceland?

I'm feeling cautiously optimistic after Iceland's Fisheries Minister Svandís Svavarsdóttir wrote that there is little...
Mykines Lighthouse, Faroe Islands

Understanding whale and dolphin hunts in the Faroe Islands – why change is not easy

Most people in my home country of the Faroe Islands would like to see an...

Dolphin scientists look like you and me – citizen science in action

Our amazing volunteers have looked out for dolphins from the shores of Scotland more than...
Atlantic white-sided dolphins

The Faroes dolphin slaughter that sparked an outcry now brings hope

Since the slaughter of at least 1,423 Atlantic white-sided dolphins at Skálafjørður in my home...
Fin whale

From managing commercial slaughter to saving the whale – the International Whaling Commission at 75

Governments come together under the auspices of the International Whaling Commission (IWC) to make decisions...

Plastic, Balloons, and other Marine Debris, Oh my!

According to the United Nations Environment Program (2005), 8 million pieces of marine debris enter the ocean every single day. This equates to 6.4 million tons each year. Marine debris can include everything from fishing gear (line, hooks, buoys, etc.), food-related waste (food wrappers and plastics), to smoke related waste (cigarette butts, filters, etc.), the majority of which enter the ocean through accidental or deliberate dumping, windblown waste, losses from ships, and land litter moved by storms and flood damage.

  

A2013 fall intern with WDC North America, I was given the task of analyzing the marine debris data from 2011 and 2012. The data was collected while aboard whale watching vessels in Stellwagen Bank National Marine Sanctuary from April-October. A total of 247 pieces of marine debris were sighted in the 2011 season, which increased to 281 sightings in 2012. The debris for our data collection only included “loose” pieces of trash, so fixed fishing gear and buoyfor example were excluded from our sightings. The debris was categorized by the type sighted and I found that plastic, balloons, and unknown debris have the most sightings each year.

 Considering that our priority as interns is to collect data on whales, and not marine debris, I think it’s amazing that we’ve documented so much trash in just two years. Some marine debris issues include: human health problems, negative effects on tourism and local economies, potential to cause marine life entanglements, wildlife ingestion, chemical pollution from plastics, and more.  Unfortunately our data suggests that the amount of debris going into our oceans is on the rise. Our data for 2013 is still in its preliminary analysis, but it appears that this trend is continuing.

Many may think that the reason for this is obvious: more people equals more trash. Or perhaps that more fishing gear is going into the water than ever before. And I’d have to agree. However, we also have tools on our side that people of the past did not have. We have blogs, social networks, emails, and Google, which means that no one has an excuse for polluting the environment, because at the touch of a button anyone can learn about marine debris along with its issues. Better yet, they can learn how to help.

 When we can help, cetaceans, and all forms of life will be better for it. Honestly, it disgusts me when I see litter on the ground because I know where it may and probably will end up; our beloved oceans.  And how we can help is also obvious. Pick up the trash! Recycle! Spread the Word! Let’s Go! Click this link if you’d like to learn more about Marine Debris. Or if you’d like to help out by reporting any marine debris sightings directly to NOAA, check out this APP: Marine Debris Tracker.