Ring created to protect marine life

DELRAY BEACH, Fla. – A Florida brewery has come up with an idea that it hopes will not only help protect sea creatures, but also help feed them.

Saltwater Brewery designed what it calls edible six-pack rings.

In a Facebook post, the brewery wrote: “We believe most plastic beer six‐pack rings end up in our oceans and pose a serious threat to wildlife. Together with We Believers, we ideated, designed, tested and prototyped the first ever Edible Six Pack Rings.”

The rings are made with byproducts of the beer-making process and are also biodegradable and compostable.

The Delray Beach brewery says it hopes the idea will influence other companies to do the same.

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Update 12 p.m.: FPL has responded to the study, saying it needs more time to review the specific data but defending its efforts to protect Biscayne Bay. “Our top priority is the health and safety of the public, and there is no threat to the health and safety of the public,” says Bianca Cruz, an FPL spokeswoman.  

As Florida Power & Light finalized plans to expand its nuclear reactors at Turkey Point three years ago, critics were aghast. The nuclear plant already stands on environmentally fragile land, and upping the power production would seriously threaten the ecosystem, they argued.

Turns out they may have been right. This morning, the county released the results of a study into whether Turkey Point has been leaking dangerous wastewater into Biscayne Bay. County water monitors found more than 200 times the normal levels of tritium, a radioactive isotope linked to nuclear power production, in the bay water, a finding environmentalists say justifies their concerns.

“This is one of several things we were very worried about,” says South Miami Mayor Philip Stoddard, who is also a biological sciences professor at Florida International University. “You would have to work hard to find a worse place to put a nuclear plant, right between two national parks and subject to hurricanes and storm surge.”

The study is just the latest blow to FPL, which lost a state court ruling last month when a judge found the utility had failed to prevent hundreds of thousands of gallons of wastewater from seeping into the bay.

County commissioners and other local politicians are scrambling this morning to get answers about how threatened Biscayne Bay is by the leakage.

“I was shocked to read this,” says Commissioner Xavier Suarez, who in a letter demanded answers from FPL “by the end of the day.” County Mayor Carlos Gimenez, meanwhile, says the county has “aggressively enforced its regulations” and would demand that the state force FPL to fix the problem.

Adds State Rep. Jose Javier Rodriguez: “For years our state regulators have failed to take seriously the threat to our public safety, to our drinking water and to our environment posed by FP&L’s actions at Turkey Point. Evidence revealed this week of radioactive material in Biscayne Bay is the last straw and I join those calling on the US EPA to step in and do what our state regulators have so far refused to do – protect the public.”

At the heart of the troubling issue revealed in the new report is a system of canals surrounding the nuclear plant in southeast Miami-Dade. Nuclear cores must be constantly cooled to avoid meltdowns. The canals circulate water through the plant to leach heat off the reactors.

As FPL prepared to expand the plant’s reactors in 2013, critics such as Stoddard warned that relying on the canals was a mistake. For one thing, environmentalists argued, the hot, salty canal water would inevitably leak back into Biscayne Bay and the Everglades.

“They argued the canals were a closed system, but that’s not how water works in South Florida,” Stoddard says.

In the two years since, environmentalists have pointed to a growing litany of concerns, including spiking heat levels in the canals and saltwater plumes exploding from the power plant into nearby groundwater systems. Stoddard says salty water has intruded as far as four miles inland through groundwater.

But FPL resisted new monitoring, Stoddard says, and deflected blame. “FPL has argued and argued and denied and denied there was any connection to their canals,” he says. “They’ve tried to prevent monitoring. They were successful until the county commission finally demanded this study.”

FPL hasn’t returned New Times‘ phone calls for comment on the study. The county’s numbers are cited in another report released today, which was conducted by University of Miami scientist Dr. David Chin, who analyzed how an influx of new water could affect the cooling canals.

As for those elevated tritium levels, it’s not clear whether the isotope itself is dangerous to people or wildlife at that concentration; that’s one topic on which the commission will demand answers from FPL, Suarez says.

But the hot, salty water is certainly a problem for the delicate ecosystems in Biscayne National Park and the Everglades. Stoddard — who argues the new study might point to violations of the federal Clean Water Act — says he believes only two solutions are viable: building new cooling towers to replace the canals, or shutting down the plant.

“There’s a certain validation to critics in seeing this result in the study,” he says. “But more important, it’s now crossed the threshold of federal law here.”

Update 12 p.m.: While FPL says it needs to review the new county data on tritium levels in Biscayne Bay, the utility strongly defended its work to protect Biscayne Bay. Cruz, the FPL spokeswoman, points out the agency reached an accord with the county last October. In the agreement, FPL promises to clean up its act by pumping wastewater into a deep aquifer, among other steps.

“We’ll continue to comply with regulatory agreement we reached with the county in October,” Cruz says.

Cruz also emphasized that FPL has collected its own data on impacts to Biscayne Bay and has seen no indication of a larger pollution problem.

“We’ve collected this data for many years, and this data has reviewed by independent scientists,” Cruz says. “We’re going to continue to work closely with regulatory agencies.”

Cruz also criticized Stoddard for slamming the agency over the latest report. “He’s selecting portions of the data to further his anti-FPL campaign,” she says.

Akin to the Texas-size garbage patch in the Pacific, a massive trash vortex has formed from billion of bits of plastic congregating off North America’s Atlantic coast, researchers say.

Billions of bits of plastic are accumulating in a massive garbage patch in the Atlantic Ocean—a lesser known cousin to the Texas-size trash vortex in the Pacific, scientists say.

“Many people have heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts. (See pictures of the Pacific Ocean trash vortex.)

“But this issue has essentially been ignored in the Atlantic.”

The newly described garbage patch sits hundreds of miles off the North American coast. Although its east-west span is unknown, the patch covers a region between 22 and 38 degrees north latitude—roughly the distance from Cuba to Virginia (see a U.S. map).

As with the Pacific garbage patch, plastic can circulate in this part of the Atlantic Ocean for years, posing health risks to fish, seabirds, and other marine animals that accidentally eat the litter.

Read Full Article

On November 1st, from 8:00am – 12:00pm, we will be meeting at Kennedy Park  by the playground. Please bring bags, comfortable shoes and clothes, water.

We will be bringing water and bags as well. Invite all your friends, and we can also give out service hours if you are in high school.

Tips:

  • Wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind dirtying or you may have a problem when picking up trash on the beach!
  • When spending time at the beach, avoid taking anything that could cause problems as rubbish. Take all your rubbish out and be careful not to let plastic bags and other light items blow away when you’re not paying attention; put them away before that can happen. Also check that you’ve collected allof your belongings before leaving. Stray flip-flops, food containers, towels, etc., all become beach junk when abandoned.
  • Consider keeping records of cleanups between different times, to see if the rubbish is getting worse or improving. This can be useful data to petition local authorities and governments with.
  • Help small communities, school children and others learn how to clean up coastlines and why it’s important. Hold talks, seminars and workshops to help others learn about the need to care for our oceans and beaches. Teach people to use less and recycle or reuse what we already have so we make less rubbish in the first place. As well, encourage people to stop throwing rubbish into the street because it ends up in the drains and then at the beaches and the sea.

We face many complex challenges when it comes to a clean and healthy  – ocean, but one problem is simple to understand: Trash

People know that trash in the water:

  • compromises the health of humans, wildlife and the livelihoods that depend on a healthy ocean;
  • threatens tourism and recreation, and the critical dollars they add to our local economies;
  • complicates shipping and transportation by causing navigation hazards; and
  • generates steep bills for retrieval and removal.

Unfortunately, what we see dirtying beaches and floating on the ocean’s surface is just the tip of the iceberg. Much more lies unseen beneath the surface and far away on the open water — but that doesn’t make it any less important.

That’s why Biscayne Bay Foundation  is taking bold action, working to stop the flow of trash at the source, before it has a chance to reach the water to choke and entangle dolphins or endanger manatees  or ruin our beaches and depress our local economies.

On September 19th, from 8:00am – 12:00pm, we will be meeting at Kennedy Park  by the playground. Please bring bags, comfortable shoes and clothes, water.

We will be bringing water and bags as well. Invite all your friends, and we can also give out service hours if you are in high school.

Tips:

  • Wear comfortable clothing that you don’t mind dirtying or you may have a problem when picking up trash on the beach!
  • When spending time at the beach, avoid taking anything that could cause problems as rubbish. Take all your rubbish out and be careful not to let plastic bags and other light items blow away when you’re not paying attention; put them away before that can happen. Also check that you’ve collected allof your belongings before leaving. Stray flip-flops, food containers, towels, etc., all become beach junk when abandoned.
  • Consider keeping records of cleanups between different times, to see if the rubbish is getting worse or improving. This can be useful data to petition local authorities and governments with.
  • Help small communities, school children and others learn how to clean up coastlines and why it’s important. Hold talks, seminars and workshops to help others learn about the need to care for our oceans and beaches. Teach people to use less and recycle or reuse what we already have so we make less rubbish in the first place. As well, encourage people to stop throwing rubbish into the street because it ends up in the drains and then at the beaches and the sea.

From nationalgeographic.com

When marine ecologist Andres Cozar Cabañas and a team of researchers completed the first ever map of ocean trash, something didn’t quite add up.

Their work, published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, did find millions of pieces of plastic debris floating in five large subtropical gyres in the world’s oceans. But plastic production has quadrupled since the 1980s, and wind, waves, and sun break all that plastic into tiny bits the size of rice grains. So there should have been a lot more plastic floating on the surface than the scientists found.

“Our observations show that large loads of plastic fragments, with sizes from microns to some millimeters, are unaccounted for in the surface loads,” says Cozar, who teaches at the University of Cadiz in Spain, by e-mail. “But we don’t know what this plastic is doing. The plastic is somewhere—in the ocean life, in the depths, or broken down into fine particles undetectable by nets.”

What effect those plastic fragments will have on the deep ocean—the largest and least explored ecosystem on Earth—is anyone’s guess. “Sadly,” Cozar says, “the accumulation of plastic in the deep ocean would be modifying this enigmatic ecosystem before we can really know it.”

But where exactly is the unaccounted-for plastic? In what amounts? And how did it get there?

“We must learn more about the pathway and ultimate fate of the ‘missing’ plastic,” Cozar says.

Plastic, Plastic Everywhere

One reason so many questions remain unanswered is that the science of marine debris is so young. Plastic was invented in the mid-1800s and has been mass produced since the end of World War II. In contrast, ocean garbage has been studied for slightly more than a decade.

“This is new mainly because people always thought that the solution to pollution was dilution, meaning that we could turn our head, and once it is washed away—out of sight, out of mind,” says Douglas Woodring, co-founder of the Ocean Recovery Alliance, a Hong Kong-based charitable group working to reduce the flow of plastic into the oceans.

The North Pacific Garbage Patch, a loose collection of drifting debris that accumulates in the northern Pacific, first drew notice when it was discovered in 1997 by adventurer Charles Moore as he sailed back to California after competing in a yachting competition.

A turning point came in 2004, when Richard Thompson, a British marine biologist at Plymouth University, concluded that most marine debris was plastic.

Research on marine debris is also complicated by the need to include a multidiscipline group of experts, ranging from oceanographers to solid-waste-management engineers.

“We are at the very early stages of understanding the accounting,” says Kara Lavender Law, an oceanographer at the Sea Education Association, based in Cape Cod, Massachusetts. “If we think ten or a hundred times more plastic is entering the ocean than we can account for, then where is it? We still haven’t answered that question.

“And if we don’t know where it is or how it is impacting organisms,” she adds, “we can’t tell the person on the street how big the problem is.”

Law, along with Thompson, is one of 22 scientists researching marine debris for the National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis at the University of California, Santa Barbara. The group is grappling with some of these questions and plans to publish a series of papers later this year.

One of the most significant contributions made by Cozar’s team, says Law, was data collected in the Southern Hemisphere: “I can’t tell you how rare that is.”

From nationalgeographic.com

1. Mind Your Carbon Footprint and Reduce Energy Consumption

Reduce the effects of climate change on the ocean by leaving the car at home when you can and being conscious of your energy use at home and work. A few things you can do to get started today: Switch to compact fluorescent light bulbs, take the stairs, and bundle up or use a fan to avoid oversetting your thermostat.

2. Make Safe, Sustainable Seafood Choices

Global fish populations are rapidly being depleted due to demand, loss of habitat, and unsustainable fishing practices. When shopping or dining out, help reduce the demand for overexploited species by choosing seafood that is both healthful and sustainable.

3. Use Fewer Plastic Products

Plastics that end up as ocean debris contribute to habitat destruction and entangle and kill tens of thousands of marine animals each year. To limit your impact, carry a reusable water bottle, store food in nondisposable containers, bring your own cloth tote or other reusable bag when shopping, and recycle whenever possible.

4. Help Take Care of the Beach

Whether you enjoy diving, surfing, or relaxing on the beach, always clean up after yourself. Explore and appreciate the ocean without interfering with wildlife or removing rocks and coral. Go even further by encouraging others to respect the marine environment or by participating in local beach cleanups.

5. Don’t Purchase Items That Exploit Marine Life

Certain products contribute to the harming of fragile coral reefs and marine populations. Avoid purchasing items such as coral jewelry, tortoiseshell hair accessories (made from hawksbill turtles), and shark products.

6. Be an Ocean-Friendly Pet Owner

Read pet food labels and consider seafood sustainability when choosing a diet for your pet. Never flush cat litter, which can contain pathogens harmful to marine life. Avoid stocking your aquarium with wild-caught saltwater fish, and never release any aquarium fish into the ocean or other bodies of water, a practice that can introduce non-native species harmful to the existing ecosystem.

7. Support Organizations Working to Protect the Ocean

Many institutes and organizations are fighting to protect ocean habitats and marine wildlife. Find a national organization and consider giving financial support or volunteering for hands-on work or advocacy. If you live near the coast, join up with a local branch or group and get involved in projects close to home.

8. Influence Change in Your Community

Research the ocean policies of public officials before you vote or contact your local representatives to let them know you support marine conservation projects. Consider patronizing restaurants and grocery stores that offer only sustainable seafood, and speak up about your concerns if you spot a threatened species on the menu or at the seafood counter.

9. Travel the Ocean Responsibly

Practice responsible boating, kayaking, and other recreational activities on the water. Never throw anything overboard, and be aware of marine life in the waters around you. If you’re set on taking a cruise for your next vacation, do some research to find the most eco-friendly option.

10. Educate Yourself About Oceans and Marine Life

All life on Earth is connected to the ocean and its inhabitants. The more you learn about the issues facing this vital system, the more you’ll want to help ensure its health—then share that knowledge to educate and inspire others.