An island in the middle of the Caribbean Sea is an idyllic place to live and visit, but islands can be particularly vulnerable to marine debris. The effects of marine debris can be seen in everyday life in the U.S. Virgin Islands, from the visible debris on our beaches, to the economic toll that it can take on our tourism industry. To help address the issue, the University of the Virgin Islands is leading efforts to remove marine debris from sensitive mangrove habitats and coordinate action with stakeholders across the territory.
Marine debris is a significant challenge facing our blue planet and an ongoing challenge in Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary. Following Hurricane Irma in 2017, an onslaught of debris was left behind in the southeastern United States. The aftermath damaged ecosystems that are critical for the sanctuary’s marine life, including sponges, dolphins, manatees, and sea turtles. Consequently, Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary and its Advisory Council identified marine debris as a major priority needing a proactive response: the Goal: Clean Seas Florida Keys initiative.
Florida and the Caribbean likely bring to mind vacations full of beautiful, sandy beaches, coral reefs teeming with life, swaying palm trees, and picturesque sunsets. But a deeper dive reveals the tragic impacts of marine debris to our local wildlife, our fishing and tourism economies, and the health of our waters. From Plastic Reduction Challenges and Ghost Trap Rodeos to big coastal cleanups and hurricane debris removals, our newest partners in the region have already risen to the challenge and are working hard to implement creative solutions to remove debris and prevent it at the source.
School cafeterias offer students daily lunch choices, but school-provided meals can generate serious waste. Students in rural northeast Michigan took a closer look at their lunchroom waste as part of a “Food for Thought” project led by the Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative, the Community Foundation for Northeast Michigan, and Michigan State University Extension. They performed a lunch waste audit to investigate their lunchroom trash and to brainstorm solutions that prevent plastics from becoming marine debris in the Great Lakes ecosystem.
The Great Lakes region, with its complex habitats, is no stranger to environmental problems. Organizations have been working for many years to address issues like chemical contaminants, invasive species, and harmful algal blooms. Many of these same organizations, along with emerging leaders from local communities and schools, are now working on new waste awareness and prevention projects to tackle the problem of plastics!