We can’t imagine swimming in a sea of plastic. Or serving it for dinner. But the pervasive amount of marine debris polluting San Diego’s ocean leads us that direction. Plastic pollution and other litter in San Diego’s ocean harms marine life that mistake it for food or become entangled, and it also poses a threat to human health and safety.
Nearly 80 percent of marine debris comes from land and the sources include industrial outfalls, land fill, littering, dumping and poor waste management. The main types of debris include plastics, glass, metal, polystyrene (Styrofoam), rubber, wood, derelict fishing gear and derelict vessels.
That’s why San Diego Coastkeeper coordinates monthly beach cleanups, Coastal Cleanup Day, Beach Cleanup in a Box and Sponsored Cleanups. We record the types and amounts of debris removed during these cleanups. We use these data from our beach cleanups to influence policy decisions, educate the public and local businesses about litter in San Diego and its harmful effects on the environment.
Ocean-based debris from commercial fishing, shipping, oil sectors, recreational boating and military vessels makes 20 percent of all marine debris. Marine organisms suffer as they entangle in debris, frequently from derelict fishing gear (DFG), such as lost fishing lines and traps. Derelict fishing gear can cause wounds, impair mobility, increase vulnerability to predators and strangle marine organisms.
In addition to removing trash from San Diego’s beaches, we aim to stop marine debris pollution at the source. We fight to reduce the use of Styrofoam and plastic bottles in the City of San Diego and other cities. From supporting efforts to ban smoking on San Diego beaches, which noticeably impacted the number of butts found at beach cleanups, to leading the movement to ban single-use plastic bags, we impact San Diego policy and motivate decision makers to think harder about plastics.
Prevention gets the gold star, but litter still haunts San Diego’s beaches. Donate to empower us, volunteer in San Diego and make small changes such as using a reusable water bottle, bringing your own grocery bags, and reducing consumption of plastic products to make a huge impact for the environment. And earn your own gold star.
To learn more about marine debris and its impact on our environment, please visit these additional resources.
Slideshow photo credits include NOAA and Andre Lima.