Support Efforts Underway in Alaska
November 07, 2007
"The First Lady's personal involvement in the marine debris issue will help ensure the public is better educated about the problem debris poses to the ocean environment and government program are better coordinated with state, local and private efforts," said MCA executive director David Benton. "With her presence and stature, I'm more confident that we will make progress in the fight against this ocean scourge."
Speaking in Mississippi, Bush recounted how she learned first-hand of the marine debris problem by visiting Midway Island in the Pacific and seeing the carcasses of Laysan Albatross chicks that starved to death by eating colored plastics - bottle caps, cigarette lighters and other items - that were mistaken as food.
"I've seen what humans can do and what our behavior can do to devastate marine life," said the First Lady. "Whether we live on the shore or not, all of us have the obligation to care for these amazing natural resources." Following her visit, President Bush later designated 140,000 square miles of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a National Marine Monument and he signed into law the Marine Debris Research, Prevention, and Reduction Act.
In addition to its natural values, the First Lady also noted its the ocean's broader importance to our nation. "In the United States, one out of every six jobs is marine related," she said. "The oceans provide the food we eat and often the water we drink. These waters contain countless natural treasures. They carry much of our shipping and trade, and they support recreation and travel for millions of people."
The First Lady then announced a new marine debris initiative intended to bring federal, state and local governments together with industry, academia and non-profit organizations to reduce and remove debris in the marine environment. Among its key points are to:
"The MCAF is solidly behind each of these efforts," Benton said. "This year we partnered with Tribal, recreation and industry groups and removed 150 tons of debris from the Alaska coastline and studied the sources and accumulation rates of derelict fishing gear."
The MCA Foundation Cleanup programs in 2007 took place in Yakutat, Prince William Sound, Gore Point, Unalaska, Saint Paul, Saint George, Unalakleet, Shaktoolik, and Yakutat. Some 1,500 miles of coastline were surveyed to identify future cleanup efforts in western Alaska and Kodiak Island.
"We've made numerous public presentations on the scope of the problem from the Alaska Forum on the Environment to the American Fisheries Society and are developing curriculum to educate fishermen and students about the problem of marine debris," Benton added. "We worked with other Juneau non-profits to expand Alaska's participation in the International Coastal Cleanup day. Much more needs to be done, which is why we welcome the First Lady's personal attention to this national problem."
"One of the most important parts will be to make sure people are educated about marine debris and what they can do about it," the First Lady concluded. "I urge people across our whole country to join these conservation efforts; volunteer for beach cleanup; get involved in public policy discussions about the sustainable, responsible development of our coast; reuse plastics; only buy plastics that are recyclable or reuse the ones that you've got. These efforts will preserve a cleaner, healthier ocean for everybody."
The MCA Foundation is the non-profit arm of the Marine Conservation Alliance, a Juneau-based fishing industry trade association whose members include most of the seafood processors, vessel owners, and others involved in the Gulf of Alaska and Bering Sea groundfish and crab fisheries. In addition to its work on marine debris, the MCA Foundation is involved in cooperative research programs that bring fishermen and scientists together to tackle such issues as bycatch reduction.
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