Surfrider has long advocated for solutions to the continually worsening problem of marine debris. Cleanups led by our chapter network have removed hundreds of thousands of pounds of trash from our beloved beaches. They have also taken action locally to limit plastics from entering our waterways, resulting in the passage of over 150 laws that reduce single-use plastics and styrofoam. Recently, an Ocean Friendly Restaurants program was launched and over 200 businesses have enrolled in 2018 alone. Despite these efforts, marine debris continues to pile up and it is evident that a better, more coordinated approach is needed.
As fortune would have it, NOAA has initiated a process to develop a Marine Debris Action Plan for Washington that will identify dozens of actions and organizations that have the capacity to lead those activities. Similar plans have already been developed through their Marine Debris Program in Hawaii, California, and Oregon. In Washington, the process for creating the plan started with a workshop in Ocean Shores last December where organizations shared actions that are currently being taken to reduce marine debris and laid out goals. In May, the group reconvened in Lacey and focused on actions and activities that address those goals.
Surfrider staff as well as several chapter leaders attended both workshops and ensured that our priorities will be included in the final action plan. Those priorities include: reducing the use of plastics; better understanding the impacts of micro-plastics in the environment; addressing the surprising amount of firework debris that makes it into our waterways; promoting business friendly incentives, such as Ocean Friendly Restaurants; and pursuing state and local funding options that will go directly to marine debris prevention and removal. During the last workshop, we discovered that in 1988 Washington created a marine plastics debris task force that was assigned with creating an action plan. It appears as though that action plan has been collecting dust on the shelf but we are hopeful that we can leverage that action plan and the accompanying legislation to provide discrete funding for future marine debris reduction and removal projects.
For more information on Marine Debris and the NOAA program visit their website. Once the plan is finalized, Surfrider and other partners on the project will share it far and wide. Please contact WA Field Manager Brice Boland if there is an item in the plan you would like to work on with us, to schedule a marine debris focused presentation, or to find out about a Surfrider chapter led beach cleanup in your area.