The world’s oceans are fast becoming a toxic and dangerous trash can for marine life. But this September the largest assembly of divers and like minded volunteers will join in a global clean up aimed at helping preserve the marine environment.
“Even trash in Kentucky eventually washes out to the sea,” says Jenny Miller Garmendia, Director of Project AWARE Foundation (PAF), a nonprofit organization that conserves underwater environments through education, advocacy and action. “The challenge around the world is getting people to make the connection that even if you live far from the sea your litter can end up in the ocean.”
Last year 390,881 volunteers from 110 countries participated in Project AWARE’s International Cleanup Day. For the more than a decade PAF has teamed up with PADI divers (Professional Association of Dive Instructors) and the Ocean Conservancy to organize a global International Cleanup Day of the world’s oceans and shorelines.
PADI Professionals worldwide volunteer to organize clean-ups locally. Last year 10,600 divers removed 219,528 lbs (99.57 tons) of debris from over 1,000 miles of underwater terrain, an average of 25 pounds per diver.
Besides picking up a lot a trash from shorelines and underwater, a major component of International Cleanup Day is also collecting data. While collecting debris, volunteers keep track of the types of debris they find and where it is coming from.
“If all we did was clean up the beach, we’d just be cleaning up beaches forever and not be making a difference,” says Miller Garmendia. “When divers go out as volunteers and collect data, as well as the trash itself, they are having an impact in the long run in finding a solution to the problem.”
Scientists believe that the world’s largest garbage dump is in the Pacific Ocean and have named it the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. A big part of the debris finding its way into our oceans is made of plastic, as much as 80-90 per cent. But because plastic doesn’t ever completely breakdown, scientists find small plastic fragments and dust floating in the ocean. Often a dead bird or fish is found with a stomach filled with plastic bits and cigarette butts.
It’s estimated that about 4.5 trillion cigarette butts are thrown away each year, and many of these find their way into the earth’s waterways, oceans and into the bellies of fish and birds.
Data collected by divers during International Cleanup Day is reported in the Ocean Conservancy’s Marine Debris Index demonstrating data collected and tallied by volunteers worldwide. Underwater data is also used in a special report on marine litter by the United Nations Environment Program, called Marine Litter: A Global Challenge.
International Cleanup Day this year is scheduled for September 19, 2009.
To find out how to participate in International Cleanup Day:
or call toll-free 1-866-80-AWARE for the US and Canada
To find out how you can join your fellow divers in clean up activities:
Visit us at www.padi.com
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