Target: Dennis McLerran, Regional Administrator of the Environmental Protection Agency for Alaska
Goal: Reduce trash on Alaskan shores by tracing origins of plastic debris
At a recent beach cleanup at Katmai National Park, volunteers discovered four tons of trash from a four-mile beach. The most common items found on these beaches are plastic fishing gear such as cargo nets, as well as products spilled from shipping containers on freighters during storms. Sign this petition demanding government action to protect Alaska’s shores and marine life from plastic waste.
Alaska’s beaches provide habitats for hundreds of native species of bird, fishes, and mammals. The state is known for having the largest remaining salmon population in the U.S. Now fish populations are being threatened by human-made debris, especially hazardous plastic debris and fishing gear.
Plastic is particularly dangerous because it resists degradation by bacteria and can exist in landfills and underwater for centuries, threatening marine life. Some plastics contain toxic chemicals such as lead and metals that contaminate animals and humans when they wash ashore. Plastic endangers marine life both in the water and on land. Sea turtles, fish, seals, and seabirds are harmed from entanglement and consumption of plastic. Plastic polymers have been detected in the blood of mussels and other shellfish as well.
As President of the Blue Ocean Institute, Carl Safina, states, “How we treat our lands and other living inhabitants reflects how we treat other peoples and how we treat one another. That’s why trash, even on a ‘remote’ beach, insults our dignity and sullies our humanity.”
The solution to this problem will require looking “farther up the trash stream” to identify the origins of the debris. By tracing the plastic to its source, we can address the problem more directly. Fishing boats must be monitored to track how many nets get lost at sea and similarly, how many shipping containers and their contents are lost from freighters.
Safina proposes implementing initiatives to refund fishermen for their old nets rather than charging for their disposal. This would result in fishing gear being managed more sustainably at the end of its life cycle and result in fewer instances of old nets being dumped overboard.
Sign this petition demanding action to protect Alaska’s beaches and native marine life.
Dear Mr. McLerran,
Marine life has suffered too long from human-made debris washing up on Alaska’s once pristine shores. As the regional administrator for the EPA in Alaska, it is your duty to recognize the need for regulations to protect the state’s threatened shoreline from contamination by plastics.
Current efforts to catalog and remove debris are insufficient to solving this problem and ridding shorelines of plastic. The original sources of the plastic must be identified, such as ship freighters, to address how we can change the methods used by fishermen to dispose of their old equipment. Preventative action is needed to maintain the integrity of Alaska’s beaches and protect marine life from harmful plastics.
[Your Name Here]
Photo Credit: Kim F via Flickr