Earth911 talks with George Leonard, chief scientist for the nonprofit Ocean Conservancy, about the state of the oceans and plastic pollution — particularly the impact of COVID-19 personal protective equipment (PPE) pollution. The organization recently completed its annual survey of beaches and waterways, during which it found 107,219 PPE items — masks, shields, and gloves among other items. We seem to treat the sea as our dumping ground, but the oceans are a source of food and much of the world’s oxygen, and according to the United Nations global fisheries could collapse by 2048.
Leonard describes the striking increase in PPE and its potential impact on aquatic life and human health, as microplastics spread throughout the food chain. We also discuss the recent documentary Seaspiracy and the Ocean Conservancy’s work to develop sustainable fisheries around the world. The U.S. remains a leader due to strong regulation of its fishing industry but there are challenges around the world. We also discuss the basic steps each of us can take to reduce ocean plastic pollution — from eliminating single-use plastic in our lives to learning about, supporting, and advocating for laws to strengthen environmental protection and enforce extended producer responsibility regulations.
Visit the Ocean Conservancy to learn more and support their work.