22 April 2012
Here in Florida, water conservation means so much more than watering your lawn less, or taking shorter showers. Because so many of us live near coast lines, water conservation also means taking care of the natural treasures we’re lucky enough to enjoy every day. To issues that face Floridians are littering and ocean dumping.
We’ve all seen it. You spend a day at the beach, expecting to enjoy nature at its finest. When you arrive though, the picture is often different. Trash and litter from the visitors before you are carelessly discarded. For us, it’s an eyesore. For the wildlife we share these oceans with though, it’s a different story.
Marine animals sometimes mistake debris for food and swallow it or become caught in it and die. Debris and trash can be carried downstream in rivers endangering all aquatic life on its way to the sea where it will drift through the ocean currents for years and years. Plastic floating in the ocean can resemble jellyfish. Many leatherback turtles die from ingesting plastic bags which they mistake for their favorite food, jellyfish. As a result, the leatherback is listed on the U.S. Endangered Species List as endangered worldwide.
Of the approximately 7 billion tons of litter that enters the world's oceans each year, about 60 percent is of a plastic composition including bags, bottles, synthetic ropes and fishing nets, and more. These items can last for 10-20 years before finally decomposing. It is estimated that 1 million seabirds and 100,000 other marine animals, including endangered species, die as a result of having swallowed plastic litter or been caught in it.
In addition to trash, the oceans and waterways that surround us also become at risk due to pollution. Two thirds of the major cities in the world are situated along coasts, and millions of people vacation at shorelines. Pollution from developed areas drains into the ocean killing marine life, threatens human health, causes toxic algae blooms, and forces beach closures. Human pollution is destroying coral reefs and coastal habitat which are vital for breeding, food and shelter for marine species. Vast amounts of pollution are draining into our ocean waters daily from human-related activities. Ocean currents can carry pollutants far from the source of entry, and species consume and absorb them. Pollutants have caused major declines in species, and are threatening the planet's ecological stability; and therefore, our life support system.
Needless to say, pollution of any kind does great damage to our environment. When it comes to conserving our oceans and waterways though, Floridians have an added responsibility. It’s a small price to pay for living in such a beautiful state.