Friday, February 11, 2011

Trash Talkin' at the West Coast Governors' Agreement meeting

Surfrider Foundation is a member of the West Coast Governors' Agreement ("WCGA") on Ocean Health's Action Coordination Team for Marine Debris. This week, the Team met in San Francisco to discuss solutions for Land-Based Debris. Land-based marine debris is often called ocean litter, plastic pollution or marine plastic pollution and comprises up to 80% of all the trash in our oceans. Naturally, this is an incredibly important topic for Surfrider Foundation, our Rise Above Plastics program, and goes to our mission of protecting our oceans, waves and beaches.

The Land-based Marine Debris Workshop was attended by officials from NOAA, EPA, Washington Department of Natural Resources, Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, the California Coastal Commission, non-profits such as Heal the Bay, SOLV and Surfrider Foundation, and experts on marine debris, including Algalita Marine Research Foundation and Seventh Generations Advisors. The three day discussion focused on obtaining strategy solutions for Reduction & Prevention methods, Database Gathering & Management, Public Education & Outreach, and Coordination. Surfrider Foundation specifically presented on the reduction efforts that are currently going on in the three states, including single-use plastic bag bans, expanded polystyrene foodware bans, and extended producer responsibility efforts and made recommendations for the Governors to adopt bold strategies to support these efforts.

Generally, Action Coordination Team members focused on and recognized the importance of collection of standardized and meaningful data from beach clean-ups, setting target reduction goals for common types of litter, implementing strong and effective stormwater controls and watershed protection, and also tracking, training and supporting volunteer clean-up efforts. There was much discussion and information-sharing surrounding tactics on how to accomplish litter abatement goals: what works, what doesn't work and why? Surfrider encouraged the group to take a proactive approach to the problem and suggested actionable solutions that can be implemented on a timeline.

The core group leaders are scheduled to come up with proposed recommendation in the next several weeks, which will be suggested to the Governors. Also, the next step for the WCGA group is to form a Marine Debris Alliance to help implement the strategies that have come out of these discussions. In the interim, many of the groups working to address marine debris will be present at the 5th International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii in March, where there is expected to be a Honolulu Agreement for how to effectively address ocean litter. Surfrider continues to work on these important issues and to push for more solutions to plastic pollution.