The Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium is running a World Sea Day program to promote ocean literacy
SARASOTA – What do sea turtles, dolphins, manatees, corals and humans have in common? They all don’t like plastic bottles, straws and other trash in their ocean.
That was the message on Saturday at the Mote Marine Laboratory and Aquarium for World Oceans Day, the global event this Friday that aims to honor, protect, and promote the conservation of the world’s oceans. This year’s theme is Preventing Plastic Pollution and Promoting Solutions for Healthy Oceans.
How much plastic ends up in the ocean each year? Between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons. According to the Florida Microplastic Awareness Project, a program funded by a grant from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s marine debris program, that’s five grocery bags of plastic for every foot of the earth’s coastline.
“It’s a lot of plastic,” said Samantha Byrd, 25, special events coordinator at Mote. “Today we want to help families get more involved and show them how they can learn more about the sea.”
That means understanding the ocean’s impact on you and your impact on the ocean – and people have made a lot of impact, said Mollie Holland, the neighborhood environmental team coordinator for Sarasota County.
People don’t do a good job of making sure plastics and other recyclable items are disposed of properly, Holland said. These products fill landfills and do not decompose. This creates serious problems when they enter waterways through urban rainwater systems.
This is where plastics can cause the greatest damage and affect marine life. Plastic can break into bite-sized and microscopic pieces and can be eaten by sea turtles, birds and fish, introducing plastic into our food chain.
The World Economic Forum estimates that there could be more plastic in the oceans than in fish by the middle of the century.
That’s worrying, said Claire Reilley, a 17-year-old volunteer with Tampa Bay Watch, the Tierra Verde-based conservation group.
“That doesn’t leave me and my future children much time to explore the ocean we want to explore,” said Reilley, who wants to become a marine biologist.
Holland said adjusting daily habits can make a difference.
“We always tell people to make two or three subtle changes a day. That could mean looking after your pets and using safe fertilizer on your lawn, ”said Holland. “When you see trash on the floor, you know it will end up in the waterways. So pick it up before it goes down the drain. If you can change, encourage your friends and neighbors to.” change, and that can be dramatic. ” the health of our waterways. “
Last year, World Sea Day hosted more than 1,000 events in 118 countries, according to the organization’s website. At Mote’s event, groups like the ISHA Foundation, a nonprofit spiritual organization, encouraged families to stop using single-use plastic items such as bottles, straws and grocery bags.
“We know plastic is a very useful material, but it should be used responsibly,” said Amanda Brameister, 31, a volunteer with the organization. “Reconsider the use of the product, especially if it will only take a few minutes. Keep in mind that these plastics take hundreds of years to decompose. “
Between the educational exhibits in Mote, the children had themselves painted or dipped their hands into the cold water touch tanks to stroke stingrays, cownose rays and a red starfish. The brave posed for pictures with Gilly the Shark, the aquarium’s mascot, or with the local band The Garbage-Men, who promote recycling by playing music on instruments made from trash, such as: B. a bass guitar from an Apple Jacks cereal box.
For other kids like 11-year-old Kaitlyn Cagno, Saturday was an opportunity to get inspiration.
“When I grow up, I want to be an inventor so I can invent a robot that can clean all of the plastic in the ocean,” she said.