Archive for Conservationist Action
La Mode Verte has added it’s name to a bill in the US state of California that aims to encourage the recycling of fast-food takeout packaging, thereby reducing the amount of waste entering the environment. The Senate Bill 529 Fast Food Packaging and Marine Pollution Reduction, which has been put forward by Senator Mark Leno to the Senate Environmental Quality Committee in Sacremento, has also been supported by great organisations such as Heal The Bay, 7th Generation Advisors, Sierra Club California, and the Surfrider Foundation. LMV is proud to support the bill, which “would prohibit food providers from distributing single-use food packaging and bags unless the packaging or bag is accepted for either recycling or composting in at least 75% of households in a jurisdiction.” According to the bill, plastic pollution jeopardises California’s $40 billion ocean economy and the city of LA already spends around $1 billion on clearing waterways of trash. The bill, if passed, would be a huge step in reducing the impacts of this pollution.
We are pleased to announce that LMV Productions have been working on a 30 minute version of Plastic Shores especially for the classroom environment. The work would not have been possible without the help of South Wiltshire Agenda 21, who already have every secondary school in the county lined up to receive a DVD of the film. Plastic Shores is a documentary about the effects of plastic pollution on the world’s oceans and was launched in March 2012 at the United Nations. It has since been screened in 12 countries and translated into five languages (a sixth, Japanese, is pending). However, at 56 minutes, it was slightly too long for a classroom slot at the average school, particularly if the teacher wanted to galvanise some kind of debate on the subject of marine debris. Agenda 21, with the help of Barchester Green Investments, CPRE Wiltshire, and the Wiltshire Wildlife Trust, sponsored the shortening of the film, which is nearing completion. It is hoped that we can get a copy to every school in the country! Stop back for more information shortly.
www.themercury.com.au 10th March 2013
The Sea Shepherd Conservation Society have yet again forced the Japanese whaling fleet to fall well short of their maximum quota for whale carcasses. The fleet recently returned to port with 75 whales on board compared to the 800+ it could have culled. Despite the Australian government lodging a complaint at the International Court of Justice about Japan’s continued whaling programme, citing the country’s failure to uphold its international obligations, Japan continues to hunt whales. Sea Shepherd’s fleet has grown recently and now consists of four ships. This has allowed the conservation group to be more direct in their protests. However, growing aggression has led to claims of violence and harassment on both sides. In 2010, one of Sea Shepherd’s boats, The Ady Gil (formerly of Earth Race), was almost sunk by a Japanese whaling ship.
www.bbc.co.uk 11th March 2013
The Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES) has made a progressive step towards the conservation of sharks around the world by giving added protection to three endangered species. The convention, currently being held in Bangkok, Thailand, voted by a two-thirds majority to increase the status of the ocean whitetip, three species of hammerhead, and the porbeagle sharks, as well as Manta rays. Despite strong opposition from Japan and China, two countries known for their taste in exotic marine species, a shift in the attitude of South American nations such as Brazil and Colombia helped the motion pass. However, it could still be overturned on appeal on the final day of the convention this week. Although the move stops short of banning the shark fin trade altogether, it does introduce stricter regulations that can result in sanctions on animal products if flouted. Many shark populations have plummeted 90% in the last 100 years largely as a result of overfishing. As many as a 100 million sharks are captured every year.
LMV have recently come into contact with the Terra Mar Project, a fantastic initiative that calls for the protection of the world’s high seas. The open ocean is outside of the legal jurisdiction of any government and has therefore been exploited to a dangerous extent. Overfishing and pollution have ravaged the oceans but the Terra Mar Project believes that every individual on the planet has duty to ensure the marine environment is protected. Following the Law of the Commons, which states: “The high seas belong to all of us and should be protected for generations to come”, TMP encourages people to become a ‘citizen’ of the high seas and therefore promote awareness of its plight to friends, family and contacts. Currently, less than 2% of the oceans are protected with the UK leading the way after creating the world’s largest marine reserve around the Chagos Islands.
Become a citizen of Terra Mar now and help protect the high seas of the planet.
www.guardian.co.uk 9th February 2013
David Milliband, the brother of Ed the leader of the Labour Party, is to lead the newly formed Global Ocean Commission, a body to tackle the lawlessness of the open ocean. Mr Milliband will be alongside Nelson Mandela’s former finance minister, Trevor Manuel, and the former president of Costa Rica, José María Figueres, as well as yet-to-be-announced commissioners picked from former heads-of-state and senior ministers. The oceans are beginning to feature more prominently in global politics as their fate is looking increasingly uncertain. The open seas are beyond any national legislation and are therefore lawless. Preventable problems like over-fishing and pollution are causing severe damage to the marine eco-system and the former could lead to a collapse of numerous fish-stocks by the 2040. David Milliband is a good candidate for his role in the Global Ocean Commission. During his position as Foreign Secretary under the last UK labour government he established the world’s largest marine reserve around the Chagos Islands in the Indian Ocean; an area of no-fishing covering 640,000 square kilometres. ”The worst of the current system is plunder and pillage on a massive scale,” David Miliband told the Observer. “It is the ecological equivalent of the financial crisis. The long-term costs of the mismanagement of our oceans are at least as great as long-term costs of the mismanagement of the financial system. We are living as if there are three or four planets instead of one, and you can’t get away with that.”
Quoted from independent.co.uk 16th January 2013
Trees in Brazil’s Amazon rainforest are being fitted with mobile phones in an attempt to tackle illegal logging and deforestation. Devices smaller than a pack of cards are being attache d to the trees in protected areas to alert officials once they are cut down and the logs are transported. Location data is sent from sensors once the logs are within 20 miles of a mobile phone network to allow Brazil’s environment agency to stop the sale of illegal timber. The technology, called Invisible Tracck, which is being piloted by Dutch digital security company Gemalto, has a battery life of up to a year and has been designed to withstand the Amazonian climate. It will also allow officials to track trees in real time rather than relying on slower traditional means of monitoring through satellite images. Ramzi Abdine, general manager of Cinterion M2M, the wireless technology arm at Gemalto Latin America, said the new device could help overcome the difficulty of tracking trees over a large area. “The rainforest in Brazil is approximately the size of the United States so it’s impossible to monitor each and every acre,” he said. Marcelo Hayashi, general manager of Cargo Tracck, added: “Gemalto’s Cinterion M2M was vital in enabling us to develop a tracking and tracing solution rugged enough to withstand the heat and moisture of the Amazon. “It is unique because it’s small for inconspicuous deployment in the field and power-efficient enough to operate over long stretches of time without recharging batteries, which is crucial when tracking trees in remote areas.”
www.treehugger.com 3rd January 2012
The city of Concord (pop. 18,000) in the north-eastern state of Massachusetts in the US has become the first city to ban plastic water bottles. The ban, organised over the course of three years by 84 year-old resident Jean Hill, has been signed off by the state attorney general and applies to all water sold in a plastic bottle of 1 litre or less. It kicked into place on the 1st January. The first offence comes with a warning, the second a $25 fine and any after that a fine of $50. ”I hope other towns will follow,” Hill said. “I feel bottled water is a waste of money.” According to NBC News, the bottled water industry is considering a legal challenge. ”This ban deprives residents of the option to choose their choice of beverage and visitors, who come to this birthplace of American independence, a basic freedom gifted to them by the actions in this town more than 200 years ago,” the Virginia-based International Bottled Water Association stated, noting Concord’s place in U.S. history. “It will also deprive the town of needed tax revenue and harm local businesses that rely on bottled water sales.”
At the beginning of January, the Cayman Prep and High School in the Cayman Islands held a screening of ‘Plastic Shores‘ for marine science A-level students. Organised by Verity Redrup, who LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke met when he was based on the islands, the screening was part of a course aimed to raise greater awareness of the problems affecting the world’s oceans. Following the screening, several students (Emma Boyd-Moss, Victoria Tweedie, Aaron Mackay, Aaron Farrington, Tatiana Stewart and Nicola Sharringhausen, pictured above) went out and organised a cleanup of Smith Cove, and area regularly used for marine science lessons. The amount of marine debris they picked up was impressive and goes to show how much wider marine science should be taught in schools around the world.
New research by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) states that the illicit trade in animal and plant parts is worth $19 billion a year, making it the fourth largest illegal trade after narcotics, counterfeiting, and people trafficking. The report highlights the potential risk to national stability as armed rebel groups are using the trade to fund civil conflicts. The WWF study cites the example of a large elephant massacre in northern Cameroon as an example. In this case, rebel groups from Chad and Sudan killed 450 elephants in order to sell their ivory to buy arms. A recent seizure of an estimated 20 tonnes of ivory in Malaysia on route to China only shows to exemplify the scale of the trade. According to the Born Free Foundation, the number of elephants killed from poaching (c. 30,000) now exceeds the number that die of natural causes.
We have written several times about Rapanui, the eco-fashion label based on the Isle of Wight, and their innovative work in raising awareness for various environmental issues. They have had the well-known weather man Michael Fish MBE jumping off a skyscraper in aid of climate change and held the world’s first catwalk on a hovercraft to promote low-emission travel. They have no put together a heartwarming Christmas short-film called ‘The Grotto, Part II‘ in aid of the Badger Trust (featuring Michael Fish again as well as Rapanui founders Martin and Rob Drake-Knight, pictured below). Rapanui is a fantastic brand which uses ethically accredited factories powered by wind and solar energy and cutting edge eco-textiles from sustainable sources.
LMV’s film ‘Plastic Shores‘ managed to come in second place at the Green Up Film Festival in Brussels, Belgium. We were invited to attend when we premiered Plastic Shores at the United Nations Regional Information Centre in March and were more than happy to have the film entered. The Green Up Film Festival is an innovative new way of hosting a film festival as it allows all the films to be viewed online. Viewers then vote on the film or films they like and at the end of the three week period, the public choice award is given. This time around the award went to the Spanish film ‘LIRA, RÉSERVE DE VIE’ directed by Marcos Galleco Fernandez. It is a fantastic film on the first marine reserve created in Spain by local fishermen. In third was the humorous French film ‘VÉLOTOPIA‘ directed by Erik Fretel (trailer above).
www.bbc.co.uk 11th October 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Oil giant Shell is due to appear in a Dutch court to face charges of polluting Nigerian villages in the Niger Delta region. The case is being brought by four Nigerian farmers and the Dutch branch of campaigners Friends of the Earth. It is the first time a Dutch multinational is being put on trial in a civil court at home in connection with damage caused abroad. Shell insists it has been unable to clean up the spills due to insecurity. The Anglo-Dutch firm also says that more than half of the leaks are caused by theft and sabotage. The case is linked to spills in the Ogoniland region of southern Nigeria. The farmers say that oil spills from the oil firm’s pipelines have destroyed their livelihoods by damaging crops and fish-farms. One of the plaintiffs, Friday Alfred Akpan from the village of Ikot Ada Udo, told the BBC the oil leaks in his village had badly damaged his 47 fish ponds.’
Read the rest of the report on the BBC news website.
www.independent.co.uk 21st September 2012
A recent poll put together by the “Break the Bag Habit” coalition has shown that 75% of adults would try to reduce their use of new plastic bags if there were a 5p charge on them. The poll of 1,752 English adults comes as statistics show disposable plastic bag use went up 5% last year, the second annual rise in a row, to 8 billion across the UK. However, in Wales where a 5p charge has already been introduced numbers have dropped significantly. Northern Ireland is about to bring its own levy and Scotland is consulting on doing the same. England, as yet, has no plans to follow suit although the poll shows 54% of those surveyed think the country should follow the rest of the UK. The “Break the Bag Habit” Coalition is a partnership of the Marine Conservation Society, Surfers Against Sewage, the Campaign to Protect Rural England and Keep Britain Tidy set up to tackle the rising use of single-use bags. Plastic bags are a hazard in the environment and take a long time to break down. Large numbers find their way into the oceans where they become one of the more visible side of marine debris. Turtles, for example, can mistake them for jellyfish and then die from ingesting them.
A couple of weeks back LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke was offered the opportunity to interview Tanya Streeter, the women’s world record holder for “No Limits Apnea” diving. In August 2002, Tanya dived to a depth of 160 metres (525 feet) on one single breath of air, securing her the world freediving record. Although this depth has since been trumped by Herbert Nitsch (with a depth of 214m), Tanya still holds the women’s record.
More recently, Tanya has been working on ‘Plastic Oceans‘, a fantastic documentary due for release in 2013 about the problems of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans. LMV had the pleasure of meeting and working with the Plastic Oceans team (minus Tanya unfortunately) in Hawaii during the 5th International Marine Debris Conference. We interviewed Tanya after filming for ‘Plastic Oceans’ was finished and she assured us it was not to be missed. Watch our interview in the link above and the trailer for ‘Plastic Oceans’ below.
We here at LMV are constantly on the look out for innovative ways to raise awareness for environmental issues. Recently, the activities of Isle of Wight based eco-clothing company Rapanui have been catching our attention. In August we wrote about their work with renowned weatherman Michael Fish MBE, who they persuaded to jump off a tower block in the name of climate change. Since then we have been in contact with Rapanui founder Rob Drake-Knight, who has alerted us to another PR stunt of theirs: the world’s first ‘catwalk on water’ (despite the name, it was not biblical in nature). The Rapanui team chose the energy-efficient hovercraft crossing between the Isle of Wight and Southsea (operated by Hovertravel) to show their new range of clothing (see pictures above and below) in the run up to London Fashion Week. Ever innovative, Rapanui did without the traditional models and instead employed the hovercraft staff to model the collection of casual wear made from Organic cotton in an ethically accredited, wind-powered factory. Rob said: “We were really excited to bring fashion week to the Island in such a quirky way, giving the commuters a taste of the catwalk in their seats as we crossed Solent.”
Rapanui were supported by Loretta Lale, the commercial and marketing manager of Hovertravel: “Rapanui are a great eco-friendly clothing brand based on the Isle of Wight. We are always keen to work with local businesses from the Island, especially ones that aim to make a genuine contribution to sustainability. We have a strong focus on sustainability at Hovertravel too; the Hovercraft is one of the most efficient ways to cross the water using less fuel per passenger.”
www.bbc.co.uk 24 August 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Police in Peru have seized more than 16,000 dried seahorses which were to be exported illegally to Asian countries. Seahorse powder is used in China, Japan and elsewhere in traditional medicine and for its alleged aphrodisiac uses. Peruvian authorities say the traffickers ran away and abandoned their illicit cargo on a street in the capital, Lima. Police chief Victor Fernandez told the BBC the cargo could have fetched up to $250,000 (£160,000) abroad. Seahorse fishing is illegal in Peru, but the high prices paid for seahorse powder abroad make it difficult for the authorities to enforce the ban. Mr Fernandez said the cargo – three cases weighing 27.5kg (60 pounds) – was left behind following a police operation near the Lima’s airport. ”They are sent to Asian countries and used as aphrodisiacs. In China this product is also used to cure asthma,” he told the BBC’s Mattia Cabitza in Lima. The marine fish, which finds northern Peru’s warmer waters a perfect breeding ground, is protected by the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites). But Mr Fernandez said that last year a total of 20 tonnes of dried seahorses were seized across the world – half a tonne in Peru alone.’
What better way to raise awareness for climate change than get a respected meteorologist to jump off a tall building? Make that meteorologist weatherman Michael Fish MBE and put the tall building in the vibrant city of London during the security blitz of the Olympics and we quickly have to thank the imagination of the Rapanui team who put the whole thing in motion. Rapanui is an eco-clothing brand founded by Rob & Mart Drake-Knight and based on the Isle of Wight. It uses ethically accredited factories that are powered by wind and solar energy and cutting edge eco-textiles from sustainable sources.
The Rapanui team got together with Michael Fish (above) to film the latter BASE (Buildings, Antenna, Spans [bridges], Earth [cliffs]) jumping from a tower block in central London. The resulting video can be viewed above and is highly entertaining (“if anything is going to raise awareness for climate change it is doing damn silly things like this”). In Michael’s own words: “Despite what most people think, my TV career was not based on my stunning good looks. I’m a highly qualified meteorologist - and lately I’ve been thinking a lot about climate change. It’s probably the biggest problem we’ve ever faced and it’s not going away. If we want to live sustainably, we need to take action now, not when it’s too late.”
The World Society for the Protection of Animals (WSPA) has organised the world’s first symposium dedicated to how animal welfare is affected by entanglement in marine debris. Arranged between the 4th to the 6th of December this year in Miami, Florida, the symposium differs from other marine debris conferences as it looks specifically at the problem from an animal welfare perspective. Marine debris, particularly plastic pollution, causes numerous problems in the world’s oceans, several of which cause the death of aquatic species. The UN has estimated that around 100,000 marine mammals and 1 million seabirds die every year because of entanglement and ingestion of marine debris, although accurate figures are impossible to calculate. A commonly cited example of how this happens is with turtles mistaking floating plastic bags for jellyfish. The bag then either suffocates the turtle, or causes its stomach to produce excessive amounts of digestive gases so that the creature ends up floating to the sea’s surface, unable to dive for food thereby dying of starvation.
A couple of days ago, LMV director Ed Scott-Clarke added his name to a letter sent to the editor of the Daily Telegraph by Greener Upon Thames, an environmental charity that hosted the first UK screening of Plastic Shores. The letter called for a reduction of plastic bags used during the 2012 Olympics and other signatories included Zac Goldsmith MP, Sir David Attenborough, Dame Vivienne Westwood, and Jeff Bridges. Already Locog (London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) has stated it will not use disposable plastic bags in its shops but there are many other stores that still need to follow suit.
www.bbc.co.uk 22nd June 2012
Quoted from source:
‘On the final day of the UN sustainable development summit in Rio, UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged governments to eliminate hunger from the world. The secretary-general said in a world of plenty, no-one should go hungry. The final phase of the summit has seen pledges from countries and companies on issues such as clean energy. But a number of veteran politicians have joined environment groups in saying the summit declaration was “a failure of leadership”. And UK Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg described the outcome as “insipid”. The meeting, marking 20 years since the iconic Earth Summit in the same city and 40 since the very first global environment gathering in Stockholm, was aimed at stimulating moves towards the “green economy”. But the declaration that was concluded by government negotiators on Tuesday and that ministers have not sought to re-open, puts the green economy as just one possible pathway to sustainable development. Mary Robinson, formerly both Irish president and UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, said it was not enough. ”This is a ‘once in a generation’ moment when the world needs vision, commitment and, above all, leadership,” she said.’
e360.yale.edu 14th June 2012
Quoted from source:
‘Australia has announced that it will create the world’s largest marine reserve, a network of protected areas that will cover 1.2 million square miles, more than one-third of the country’s waters. Environment Minister Tony Burke, making the announcement in advance of the Rio+20 sustainability summit, said the action will expand the number of Australia’s marine reserves from 27 to 60 and will protect waters of the Coral Sea and other key ocean habitats. “It’ time for the world to turn a corner on protection of our oceans, and Australia today is leading that next step,” said Burke. “What we’ve done is effectively create a national parks estate in the ocean.” Limited fishing and oil drilling will be allowed in some areas, and the fishing industry will receive hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation for reducing or eliminating commercial fishing in numerous tracts of ocean.’
LMV comment: only 1.1 million square miles of the world’s oceans were protected before the expansion, of which 310,000 square miles were in Australian waters. This move by the Australian government means that over half of the world’s marine reserves are now in Australia.
www.bbc.co.uk 13th June 2012
EU fishery ministers have provisionally backed a ban on the wasteful practice of discards, whereby fishermen throw back non-target fish that are caught up in their nets. This would see discards of Herring and Mackerel banned by 2014 and those of Cod, Haddock, Plaice and Sole by 2018. The latter four will take longer to implement because of their tendency to swim together, therefore making it harder to avoid catching non-target species. The ban in not binding however and came as a result of a compromise following 24 hours of intense discussions between ministers, who all agreed that overfishing should end by 2015, 2020 at the latest. However, green groups such as Greenpeace have condemned the wording of the ‘agreement’, particularly the sentence: ”quantifiable targets linked to biological parameters”. Greenpeace argue that targets should be governed by science, not linked to it.
Sign Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s Fish Fight campaign now to keep the pressure on the EU Fisheries Commission to change.
www.latimes.com 24th May 2012
Los Angeles, California, became the largest city in the USA to ban single-use plastic bags at supermarket checkouts. In a city that has previously used 12 billion plastic bags a year (with only 5% of these being recycled), the decision the City Council is a huge victory for environmental campaigners trying to combat plastic pollution in the region’s landfills, waterways and ocean. The Council voted 13 to 1 to phase out bags over the next 16 months in the city’s 7,500 stores. California leads the way in the country with plastic bag bans. San Francisco was the first in 2007 and since then San Jose, Santa Monica, and Long Beach have all jumped on the wagon. The bans vary in wording with some silent on the contentious issue of paper bags (a long-held argument of plastic-bag manufacturers is that plastic bags reduce the amount of trees needed for paper bags) although the LA City Council has stipulated there should be a charge of 10c per paper bag. This, according to Jennie R. Romer of plasticbaglaws.org, has resulted in a 94% reduction of their use (a similar figure to the drop experienced in Rep. of Ireland when the country introduced a fee on plastic bags). Oakland, next to San Francisco, had less success with their ban after they were successfully sued because of it. It will however be included in Alameda County’s ban starting next year.
When LMV first arrived in the USA to start filming for Plastic Shores in March 2011, the first thing we did was attend the San Francisco Green Film Festival. It was a great event, which held the premier of Bag It, a film very similar to Plastic Shores in theme but done in a very different way. In fact, several interviewees in Bag It are also in our film such as Professor Fred vom Saal and Andy Keller. We met Andy (above on board with 5 Gyres) for the first time at the festival. He runs a company called ChicoBag, based in the nearby city of Chico, which makes innovative reusable bags made out of recycled plastic (below). Andy came up with the idea on a trip to his local landfill where he saw multitudes of single-use plastic bags flying around in the wind. ChicoBag now sells in over 80 different countries, including the UK.
Andy Keller was actually the first interview we held for Plastic Shores, underneath the Coit Tower in central San Francisco. He brought along another one of his creations, the Bag Monster, which was made to raise awareness of the amount of plastic bags US citizens use. It consists of 500 bags, the amount an average American uses in a year, tied to a jumpsuit creating a hilarious monster outfit (below) that is toured around the US in a herd. Andy was kind enough to give LMV one to take back to the UK. We hope to bring it out (and maybe make more) for one of our big public showings.
“People get it and they’re like ‘oh’,” said Andy. “Most people don’t keep their bags long enough to know how many bags they actually use in a year so this is a very awakening moment for most people when they see what a bag monster looks like. And to realise that maybe they are actually a bag monster themselves.” On several occasions Andy has managed to gather hundreds of Bag Monsters together to campaign for plastic bag reductions, which has made him somewhat of a target to large corporate bodies with vested interests in the disposable plastic industry.
Andy donated some fantastic footage to Plastic Shores, which features in the section about reducing our use of disposable plastics, and we can’t thank him enough for his help.
Plastic Shores is based across the USA and the UK but there were two main beaches we explored for plastic pollution. The first was Kamilo Point in Hawaii, where we were taken around by the Hawaii Wildlife Fund. The second was Porthtowan in Cornwall (above). Both these shorelines provided the small pieces of plastic used in the animation sequences put together by Alice Dunseath for the film.
We found out about Porthtowan through Chris Hines MBE, the founder of UK-based charity called Surfers Against Sewage (SAS), who Plastic Shores’ director Ed Scott-Clarke met at a lecture hosted by Selfridge’s department store for their Project Ocean campaign. Chris (above) was one of the interviewees for the film and told us all about SAS’s work in almost single-handedly changing the way the UK and the EU think about sewage. In Chris’ words though, “What we dealt with was the continuous crude raw discharges that had been inherited from Victorian times. And those are gone now…then, all those panty-liners and condoms that we used to see, and we saw a lot of them, they have been replaced by an ever-increasing amount of marine debris, marine litter. All kinds of pieces of plastic from plastic bags, to sheets of plastic, to broken down pieces of plastic bottles, to mermaid’s tears. And I’ve been seeing more and more of it.”
Chris put us in touch with his former colleagues (he has now left SAS and set up a new organisation called A Grain of Sand) at the SAS HQ in St. Agnes, Cornwall, including Andy Cummins (above, right). Andy, also an interviewee in Plastic Shores, took us down to Porthtowan beach, a beautiful spot near Truro. What was amazing about the beach was that, unless you were looking very closely, the majority of the plastic pollution was almost invisible to the eye. When we leant down close though, we could see that there were an infinite amount of small pieces of plastic in the sand. Andy explained about the ‘Blue Flag’ initiative put together by the Foundation for Environmental Education. “To get a Blue Flag…you go to the dirtiest part of the beach and you pick a 10cm by 10cm area…and there shouldn’t be 10 pieces of small plastic in there.” In the area Andy chose on Porthtowan, by far not the worst spot on the beach, he counted almost a 100 pieces. “The scale of this litter is phenomenal,” he said shaking his head.
Surfers Against Sewage does fantastic work around the UK in raising awareness for the state of our coastlines and waterways. With their previous successes in tackling sewage discharges by taking on EU legislation and tackling the big water corporations, one can’t help but feel optimistic that they are now fighting to clear our seas of plastic pollution. We thank them for all the help they have given us.
The problem of marine debris first entered the public consciousness in the USA, when Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation sailed across the North Pacific Garbage Patch in the 1990s. Since then, most research on the phenomena of garbage patches have taken place in the North Pacific (although organisations such as 5 Gyres, to be written about next, are researching other gyres in the world). Right in the middle of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as it is known, sits Hawaii, the southernmost and westernmost state of the US. It was here that the 5th International Marine Debris Conference took place, where LMV filmed in March 2011.
After the conference, LMV flew to the largest Hawaiian island, Big Island, to film what is commonly thought of as one of the world’s worst shorelines for plastic pollution, Kamilo Beach. We had met the Hawaii Wildlife Fund‘s Megan Lamson at the 5IMDC and she kindly organised for us to go to Kamilo with herself and another HWF member Stacey Breining. Kamilo is a stretch of coastline on the southeast corner of Big Island and its beaches receive a lot of plastic debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Prior to our trip down there, we interviewed Noni Sanford (pictured above), a beach cleanup volunteer who was among the first to start picking up the debris from the beach in the mid 80s. She said she was shocked about the amount of trash there was compared to the pristine coasts of when she first went down there in the 1950s. ‘It was 8-10ft deep in spots. We’d bring home some stuff but there was such a small amount of stuff we could pick up, it was really kind of defeating.’
When LMV went down to Kamilo with Megan and Stacey, thankfully, it wasn’t as bad, but that is solely down to the hard work of people like Noni and the HWF. What was shocking was the amount of micro-plastics in the sand. Megan explained that the average size of the plastic on the beach was decreasing over time, mostly due to frequent beach cleanups. But the smaller the pieces the harder they are to pick up. The HWF had devised a sieve-like flotation device that filtered the micro-plastics out of the sand. It was a long process though and it showed the dedication of the HWF team in protecting their shores. The problem was what to do with the plastic they took away with them. ‘We take the derelict fishing nets to the Waimea Transfer Station…until we have enough to fill up a 40ft maxi-container. They then ship it to Oahu, to H-Power plant where they burn it for electricity.’ Explained Stacey. ‘And then all the other trash goes to landfill. Unfortunately there isn’t any other option for us.’
The scale of the plastic pollution at Kamilo was vast and thanks to Megan and Stacey from the HWF we managed to collect some fascinating footage of just how extensive the problem of marine debris is in Hawaii. It is a pivotal sequence in Plastic Shores and the film would be lacking without it. We wish them every success in the future.