Isn’t this time of the year wonderful? We slow down to spend time with family and friends and reflect on what we are thankful for.
This Thanksgiving, I am grateful for the people who partner with the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation to help us conserve and restore America’s protected waters by removing marine debris, a global problem facing our world’s waters. From plastic straws to derelict fishing gear, it threatens aquatic life and sensitive habitats. Plastic alone will outweigh fish in our ocean if we fail to take strong, concerted action to reduce marine pollution.
Here are actions we and our partners took this year to remove marine debris:
Divers with a purpose in the Florida Keys. As part of Goal Clean Seas: Florida Keys, the Foundation is working with Blue Star Dive Operators and Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary to remove debris and restore coral reefs. This year, over 270 divers collected more than 5,900 lbs of debris and more than a mile of line and rope from the reefs and seafloor of the sanctuary.
Coastsavers in Washington State. Communities across the country are uniting through the annual International Coastal Cleanup to prevent debris from entering our ocean. The Olympic Coast National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, as part of Washington Coastsavers, removed over 7,500 lbs of debris along the shoreline of the Olympic Peninsula. And, a new partnership formed; they are working with the Million Waves Project which reclaims ocean plastic and turns it into 3D printed prosthetic limbs.
Dedicated volunteers and staff tirelessly working in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Marine pollution impacts even one of our most pristine and isolated areas of the ocean: Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument. This month, with support from the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation, a team of divers coordinated by the Ecosystem Sciences Division of the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center, spent 41 days pulling nets off of reefs and walking shorelines to clean up marine debris. They collected 82 tons of trash!
Volunteers provide thousands of hours of support to conserve our sanctuaries and monuments, and their passion is inspiring. I’m thankful for the impact they are making both on the health of our ocean and their communities. I would also like to thank all of the dedicated civil servants who work on behalf of Americans to keep our marine protected areas healthy and beautiful.
Most of all, I am thankful for the hope I feel when I see so many people discovering, exploring, and dedicating time to their national marine sanctuaries and marine national monuments. We still have so much to do, and I know that I can count on you to help us in protecting these special places.
I hope you and yours enjoy a wonderful Thanksgiving and a peaceful holiday season.
President and CEO of the National Marine Sanctuary Foundation