Mississippi Aquarium Needs Your Help on World Oceans Day

June 1, 2019


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For World Oceans Day on June 8, 2019, Mississippi Aquarium is partnering with Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center and Harrison County Beautification Commission for a beach clean up. More than simply picking up trash, this is an event that will educate and inspire you to be the change our oceans need! The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 8 from 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.
My 12 year old son and I recently took a walk along the beach in Gulfport to do some shorebird watching. Mississippi beaches provide critical breeding and nesting habitat for least terns, snowy plovers, Wilson's plovers, and black skimmers. However, as soon as we stepped onto the beach, we were overwhelmed with how much marine debris had been washed onto the shoreline from a recent storm.


Instead of bird watching, we ended up doing debris counting and identification.
In 30 feet of beach shoreline we found:
6 cigarette butts
5 plastic food wrappers
3 plastic container lids
2 plastic grocery bags
2 plastic water bottles
1 plastic sleeve that fits over soda/water bottles
1 deflated helium balloon with string attached
1 plastic oil jug
1 straw
A variety of microplastics

The world’s oceans are drowning in plastic.


I’ve had the privilege of visiting beaches and oceans around the world. From studying Pacific Walrus on Alaska’s remote Aleutian Islands, to cruising the Pearl River Delta of China looking for the endangered Chinese White Dolphin, plastic pollution has been an unfortunate common issue that I’ve observed.
Plastic bottle from a popular Chinese drink on the remote beaches of the Aleutian Islands
The world produces 300 million tons of plastic each year and 150 million tons of that plastic is thrown into the trash due to being single-use! Recycling helps, but only 10-13% of plastic items are recycled world-wide. Plastic is generally lightweight and buoyant and is easily carried by wind and water. This results in a large percentage ending up in the ocean. Some of this ocean plastic will end up in loop currents spinning around the seas for years. Some of the plastic will degrade into tiny micro-plastics that are ingested by plankton, fish and whales; other types of plastic will remain intact ensnaring, immobilizing or mimicking food objects for unsuspecting creatures.

The problem is overwhelming, and there is a real struggle to know where to start. The answer is to start small and allow new habits to develop. If we all reduced our reliance on single-use, i.e. disposable, plastic then that can result in one less water bottle or bag that could find its way into the ocean.

When the Mississippi Aquarium opens its doors, visitors will enter into a world that will demonstrate how sustainable and biodegradable materials can replace single-use plastics. You will be surrounded by hundreds of aquatic animals that live in clean, filtered saltwater and feast daily on customized diets that ensures maximum health and longevity. Each animal will be lovingly cared for by the animal care and life support teams who spend their days monitoring the animals’ well-being and keep all the systems in smooth working order. You will learn that our aquarium animals’ wild counterparts don’t have it as lucky as they struggle with pollution, poor water quality, drastic habitat loss, noise and a changing climate. The Mississippi Aquarium is dedicated to restoring and protecting our oceans and believe that by working together we can make a difference.




For more information:
World Oceans Day
https://www.worldoceansday.org/
Harrison County Beautification
https://www.keepharrisoncountybeautiful.com/
Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center
https://coastal.msstate.edu/


Author: Holley Muraco, PhD
Director of Research - Mississippi Aquarium

For World Oceans Day on June 8, 2019, Mississippi Aquarium is partnering with Mississippi State University Coastal Research and Extension Center and Harrison County Beautification Commission for a beach clean up. More than simply picking up trash, this is an event that will educate and inspire you to be the change our oceans need! The event is scheduled for Saturday, June 8 from 8:00 a.m. - 11:00 a.m.