Sailors in every corner of the world are taking the ocean’s plastic problem into their own hands, or rather, into their own nets. Balloons, bags, bottles, ghost nets, and all kinds of plastic trash are being pulled out of the water by boaters everywhere, but what if we could do something more with all that trash?
This is where 5 Gyres comes in. Named after the five swirling masses of plastic “soup” in the world’s oceans, 5 Gyres is a science-to-solutions organization collecting data on the millions of tons of plastic out in the big blue and using the results to pass plastic bans and hold the producers accountable.
I got to catch up with their Advocacy and Education Director, Melissa Aguayo, to learn more about what 5 Gyres is up to and how sailors can get in on the action.
ASA has brought on marine conservationist Lauren Coiro to help with advocacy and education when it comes to how sailors interact with the environment that they call home. “Ask Lauren” will be a regular feature where our questions on the environment will be asked and answered.
Whereas the Great Ocean can lick three layers of antifouling paint right of the bottom of your boat and deteriorate your huge zinc plates within a matter of months, her mighty forces are nothing against the permanent, inflexible strength of plastic. As much as I would like to see the ocean batter away at plastic like she does at everything else, it takes hundreds of years for her to get a winning edge of the stubborn stuff. In the meantime, plastics take their nasty toll, weakening the ocean and her inhabitants. The ocean’s taken several knockouts–images of the Pacific Garbage Patch, for example, are like a boxer bleeding profusely in the corner of a ring. BUT, the ocean’s a helluva fighter, and she can still resurrect.
The saddest thing is, the ocean shouldn’t have to be fighting plastics at all.
We, as boaters, are a far cry from being a passive audience in this fight: we are the ONLY ones in the position to start picking off plastics from the ocean’s back. ASA’s President, Cindy Shabes, was disgusted this morning that she gathered three plastic bags, a bucket, and some styrofoam on a brief afternoon sail this weekend–why is there that much garbage floating in the water? Sailors, use your boats to help win the ocean’s fight against plastics.
Here are a some excellent links about sailors doing just that. I hope they will inspire you to take your boxing gloves along next time you go sailing.