Every day we see the stories. Whales and turtles and other innocent wild animals in the ocean entangled, entrapped, and encumbered by our carelessness. Nets and fishing line and crab pot ropes are the major culprit. Plastic is another major offender. Beached whales are found with tons of undigested rubbish in their stomachs. One died as a result of a CD jewel case wedged in its blowhole. The numbers are depressing. According to the National Marine Fisheries Service, there were 30 unique reports of whale entanglements in 2014 off the West Coast, and despite the best efforts of some brave rescuers, the fates of most were unknown. Something needs to be done before we choke the oceans completely. Here are some good places to start.
File this in the ‘best idea we’ve seen this year’ category. Here’s the gist: a beer brewing company decided to do something about the problem of 6-pack rings. You see, these plastic prisons are the bane of the oceans. One famous picture shows a sea turtle that had been trapped in one of the rings. It must have happened when the turtle was younger and smaller. As the turtle grew, the plastic became a noose around its back, resulting in a deformed and sad-looking little guy. Saltwater Brewery wanted to do their part, so they devised a plan to repurpose the byproducts of the brewing process into a safe, edible substitute for the plastic ring. The result is nothing less than amazing. We’d love to see this technique extended across all industries manufacturing plastic that might end up in the oceans.
Another scourge of the seas are plastic water bottles. It’s both amazing and disheartening just how many of these things are out there, in the environment, clogging up our waterways. Did you know they can take up to 1,000 years to fully decompose? That’s unconscionable. We have to do better, and we have. Actually, Icelandic product designer Ari Jónsson has. He’s developed a design for a better water bottle, one that’s made out of biodegradable algae and decomposes in a matter of weeks. Added bonus: it’s actually edible!
Fishing nets can be devastating to sea life, and many times when a net is lost it is never recovered, only to keep on ‘ghost fishing’ for years and years, capturing sea life and condemning it to a terrible death. Now, thanks to the inventive mind of Alejandro Plasencia, a Barcelona, Spain–based product engineer, the days of ghost fishing may be numbered. Plasencia’s idea is twofold. First, fishing nets are coated with a substance that allows it to break down in the environment after four years. Second, the net is lined with tiny RFID transmitters, so that when it is lost in the first place, it can be recovered instead of just letting it go on its campaign of terror.
Other Sensible approaches:
It’s encouraging to see there are people waking up to the problem of wildlife entanglement, and even more encouraging to see these people are willing to do something about it. The California fishing industry has begun addressing it through the industry-led retrieval of lost crab pots, better gear marking and limits on the number of traps set. Other measures addressing entanglements have included fishery closures in areas where whales are feeding, lines that are designed to break away when a pot or trap catches on a whale, and reducing the number of vertical lines in the water.
Sources: discovermagazine.com | inhabitat.com | takepart.com | biologicaldiversity.org |