By Angelina Cecchetto on 17th April 2013
There are many good and bad news every day when it comes to nature and ocean conservation and one of the best news of the year for me is the newly added species of sharks and manta rays on the CITES list of endangered species but I must say that the “Ocean Cleanup” project is by far the one which gives me the biggest thrill of all of them simply because I am aware of the huge problem we are facing with omnipresent plastic and garbage pollution and should this project materialize it could make a well needed difference to worldwide plastic pollution.
Some of you may or not have heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” also called “Pacific Trash Vortex”. It is a gyre of marine debris mainly made of pelagic plastic floating in the seawater; its size is estimated between 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 sq mi) to 15,000,000 square kilometers (5,800,000 sq mi). The source of the debris is mainly land-based but also ocean based (from ships). There are 5 gyres in the world.
The result is dramatic for the marine life, plastic ending up in the digestive system of many birds, turtles (turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and end up eating whole plastic bags) and other sea organisms but also on us as floating debris absorb organic pollutants that end up in fish and therefore in our alimentation.
The “Ocean Cleanup” project is led by Boyan Slat an Aerospace Engineering student at the Delft University of Technology who also happens to be a very inspired diver. As the name clearly states, his project is to clean up the ocean garbage patch. In 2012, The Ocean Cleanup Array has been awarded Best Technical Design at the Delft University of Technology, and came second at the iSea Clash of the Concepts sustainable innovation award by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The project which is still in study and testing phase is quite promising. The idea is to use huge floating booms like telescopic arms instead of nets to funnel all the plastic debris floating in the ocean. One of the great points of the project is to use the surface currents to help funnel the debris avoiding the by-catches as the booms would divert the debris and not catch them. Beyond the sustainability aspect of the project, from a business perspective what is interesting is that it could potentially be financially profitable.
According to Boyan Slats calculations the cleanup method he is working on could potentially clean up the garbage patches in 5 years which would be a miracle considering the situation. For the moment, we cannot be sure of the results as Boyan Slats mentions on his website, they are at about 1/4th of completing their feasibility study so the whole study is far from over.
I truly hope that Boyan Slats project will materialize and will successfully help overcome the garbage patches in the ocean however, should the project not materialize yet, I must say that it is great to see that the young generations are aware of the current global situation and are actively involved in finding solutions. Without mentioning the fact that once more, divers help and contribute to valuable ocean conservation projects maybe because diving makes them ever so aware of the underwater invaluable beauty and biodiversity but also of the daunting presence of plastic and garbage in the oceans.
Cleaning the ocean would be a virtually miraculous step forward and would put us back onto the planet’s sustainability path; not just for us humans but for all the others forms of life on this planet, however, this will not tackle the source of the problem. For this we need a deep structural change to our consumption habits and work to implement more biodegradable solutions again. This will require global cooperation going from industrialists to consumers and passing by political and legal authorities. Every one of us is concerned directly or indirectly by nature and ocean pollution, either as a food toxicity issue or as a simple financial or health issue so every one of us has or will have to act or contribute to conservation initiatives.
Last but not least, I will add a petition that pleads to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food, should you want to contribute in a couple of clicks:
Actions speak louder than words. In the same way, pictures and videos can speak louder than a million words. This is why I would like to share this sublime video entitled “Celestial Lights” from Ole C. Salomonsen as it shows in a stunningly powerful manner how amazingly beautiful nature is. Nature is sheer genius and for me pure inspiration, this is why we need to protect it. We come from nature and we are part of it.
If you were ever so slightly touched by what you have seen and care about the protection of nature, please take one minute to sign a petition:
By Angelina Cecchetto on 21st March 2013
Nature together with the existence of many species have never been so much in danger of extinction, there is a lot to do to protect Life. Thankfully some people do care and act about it and thanks to these people’s solidarity and efficient campaigning, some great steps forward have been achieved.
The first great news is surely the decision to finally place five species of highly traded and endangered sharks (oceanic whitetip, porbeagle and three species of hammerheads), both manta rays and one species of sawfish on the protected list at the CITES (Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Fauna and Flora) meeting held this month in Bangkok, Thailand. This was one of the first strong engagements to admit the criticality of sharks and rays situation and to finally protect them.
On March 8th 2013 another great step forward was achieved by the California Coastal Commission (CCC) who heard people’s outcry and petitions and voted unanimously to reject the US Navy’s request to maintain military testing, sonar and bomb deployments throughout Southern California, Hawaii, Gulf of Mexico and along the Atlantic Coast. Many dolphins and whales have been killed already but should the CCC have approved the maintenance of the Navy’s project, millions of cetaceans would have been killed in the next 5 years so this is great news for the life preservation of many cetaceans in these areas so thanks for signing the petition everybody!
The other step forward was also achieved in Thailand when Thai Prime Minister Yingluck Shinawatra announced that Thailand is ending the sale of elephant ivory. This is a fantastic step towards elephant conservation there. Once again this was achieved thanks to people’s mobilization and especially WWF actions and campaigns gathering thousands of petition signatures.
In December last year, thanks to a WWF “I Will If You Will” campaign for Earth Hour 2012 which gathered the voices of 120,000 Russians and presented it to the government, the Russian Parliament voted a long-awaited law to protect the country’s seas from oil pollution.
Last but not least, we will mention the fantastic work achieved by the Sea Shepherds team who returned to Melbourne last Monday after “Operation Zero Tolerance” which is their most successful campaign to date. Their courage, solidarity and perseverance saved the lives of hundreds of whales in the Antartic and showed yet again that when people get together to defend the right cause they can have a positive influence on events or history. As many environmentalists, I was also delighted to hear that Germany finally dropped their warrant against Captain Paul Watson.
To conclude, I would say that we can all make a positive difference in this world, there is no right or wrong way to do so. As Zachary Scott rightly said, “As you grow older, you’ll find the only things you regret are the things you didn’t do” so if you want to do something about what is happening you can.
We have a voice and we can use it! Here are a few petitions to sign should you want to use your voice to make a positive difference:
By Angelina Cecchetto on 18th February 2013
Shark finning is described as such: “Shark finning refers to the removal and retention of shark fins. The rest of the body is generally discarded in the ocean; […] Sharks without their fins are often still alive; unable to move normally, they die of suffocation or are eaten by other predators.”
Sharks are fished out of the water, their fins are being cut on boats whilst they agonize in excruciating pain and then thrown back out into the water without being able to swim properly, they are then pretty much doomed to die.
I wonder how we would like it if some predator would hunt us out, cut our legs and arms off slowly whilst still alive and then throw us back into nature without arms and legs?
Shark finning needs to stop not only because this is a barbaric practice but because the shark population is being depleted and several shark species are in danger of extinction.
According to the report of the IUCN that the Shark Specialist Group published in 2007 after 7 years of experts’ studies “32% of the world’s pelagic sharks and rays (20 species) are threatened.”
On the current IUCN Red List numbers speak by themselves; 15 species of sharks are critically endangered of extinction whilst 11 species are endangered.
Shark finning is one of the main causes behind shark depletion. China is often pointed at as the most important market as shark fin soup is a delicacy there and is thought to have curative properties. The great irony of the situation is that far from being curative shark fins can actually be toxic!
Wildlife non-governmental organization “WildAid” warned that eating too much shark fin soup can cause sterility in men. Pregnant women are advised not to eat shark fin soups during their pregnancy and whilst breast feeding. The reason for this being the presence of mercury in shark fins due to industrial pollution absorbed by the smaller fish that sharks prey upon. The presence of Mercury in the ocean stems back from industrial contamination of lakes and rivers, mercury being used in the manufacture of batteries, plastic and paper.
The situation is not only highly ironic but ironically tragic I would say. So what can we do to help stop this?
I truly believe that we need to work on education, passing on the right information and multiply initiatives worldwide. Some Chinese newspapers have published articles about the dangers related to eating shark fin soup regularly or for pregnant women. I would like to know more about what else is done there and I am starting to work on a “long haul” awareness project which would ideally be diffused in China too.
I think that the more we campaign and petition about the subject the more people will be aware of what is happening and will be in grade to take informed decisions for themselves in their own conscience. The idea is to work on the demand of the markets. If the demand drastically decreases the markets will die off by themselves. I am fully aware that it will take years before seeing a noticeable positive change of population habits but we have to clearly bear in mind that the 26 species of sharks and rays that are in danger of extinction do not have many years ahead of them before they are totally extinguished from the planet. We need to act and fast!
 The Conservation Status of Pelagic Sharks and Rays https://cmsdata.iucn.org/downloads/summary_of_report.pdf
 “Watch out for shark fin soup” China Daily.
 “What You Need to Know about Mercury in Fish and Shellfish” EPA – http://water.epa.gov/scitech/swguidance/fishshellfish/outreach/advice_index.cfm
By Angelina Cecchetto on 2nd February 2013
I have been lucky enough to turn one of my passions into a job and to become a dive instructor. When I dive every day I see a fascinating underwater world that never ceases to amaze me and the divers that I take underwater. The underwater world is simply magical. Unfortunately every day I dive I also see the devastating mark of human consumption everywhere in the ocean.
Every day, I see plastic bottles both at the surface and in the sea. In the sea and in the heart of the reefs I see baby nappies, plastic bags, metal cans, plastic and glass bottles, fishing lines, constructions materials to name just a few. I pick up as many things as I can but this is nothing compare to the amount of trash we pour in the ocean every day.
We are all culprits of this “poisoning”. In the Indian Ocean, the safari boats simply dump their rubbish in the sea. The island resort hotels do the same. Instead of taking their refuse to a processing island they just wait for night to fall so no one sees them and dump the rubbish in the sea a few miles off the island. It’s cheaper. The profit that these island resort hotels make could very easily provide for a refusal budget but the greed for profit at all costs seems as infinite as the universe itself.
The governments worldwide seem to be turning a blind eye to the situation so I am inclined to think that the refuse processing is a big money scam in many countries not to say worldwide.
In Italy the rubbish are being buried in fertile agricultural grounds… In his book “Gomorra” the journalist and writer Roberto Saviano denounces all these refuse processing or rather non processing scams. Of course the fact there is no regulation or control about the rubbish processing results in constant daily poisoning of our soil and seas.
We are poisoning our own environment and killing many other innocent species in the process… In the sea the situation is dramatic. The land to water ratio on the planet is about 30 to 70% so the ocean covers about 2/3 of the planet. With this in mind you would think, the ocean is so big that you would hardly ever see traces of human consumption there. Well that’s precisely where the situation becomes alarming, the reefs are not only the victims of the overall global warming phenomenon which is more subtle to perceive but they are also ridden with human rubbish everywhere and this we cannot ignore.
We all know that the oceans are overfished, we all know about global warming, we all know about species disappearing due to human over consumption and damage so the question is what do we do about it? Individually we can do localized actions but separate we cannot change the big picture. So when are we going to get involved all together?
The main issue beyond the refuse processing is the whole consumer product industry. Packaging. Do we really need 3 layers of plastic around our products? Do we really need to have our strawberries in a plastic container and an extra cellophane layer around it? Do we really need baby nappies made out of Polyethylene i.e. plastic?
It is time to rethink the whole consumer products packaging worldwide and fast! It is not only killing or endangering many innocent species worldwide; it is also endangering us humans. The bottom line of the issue is that “money rules” in this world as we all know.
My question to conclude is simple: when all natural resources will be poisoned or extinct will Men survive eating money??