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By Andy Rowell

It may be a New Year, but there is an old oil spill that keeps on spilling. The trouble is that you will probably have never have heard about the spill.

But you need to know. Because, for more than 14 years, some 10,000 to 30,000 gallons of oil have leaked daily from a sunken oil rig owned by Taylor Energy into the Gulf of Mexico, about 12 miles south of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

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A sperm whale that washed up in Indonesia's Wakatobi National Park had plastic bottles, bags and cups in its belly. @WWF_ID / Kartika Sumolang

Yet another whale has suffered from plastic pollution. A sperm whale that washed up dead in a national park in Indonesia had nearly 13 pounds of plastic waste in its stomach, park officials told the Associated Press.

Researchers from the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and the park's conservation academy uncovered more than 1,000 other pieces of plastic, including 115 plastic cups, four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, 2 flip-flops and a nylon sack.

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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A seagull pecks at a plastic bag on Jan. 30, 2017, in Venice Beach, California. Bruce Bennett / Getty Images Entertainment / Getty Images

By Lorraine Chow

The world's plastic problem may seem vast and incalculable, but its footprint has actually been measured. In a sweeping 2015 study, researchers calculated that 9 billion tons of the material have been made, distributed and disposed in fewer than 70 years. That's an astonishing figure, but it's also one that's hard to picture. Perhaps a better way to illustrate the problem of plastics is by looking at the damage that can be caused by a single drinking straw.

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Marine debris on Hawaii's Kanapou Bay. NOAA / Flickr / CC BY 2.0

The Ocean Conservancy released on Wednesday its International Coastal Cleanup (ICC) report, a compilation of litter collected from a one-day cleanup of beaches and waterways worldwide.

For the first time since the report's inception more than 30 years ago, the 10 most common items picked up by volunteers around the world were made of plastic. Foam takeaway containers booted glass beverage bottles from this year's list.

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President Donald Trump announced his nomination of Barry Myers, the CEO of private weather company AccuWeather, to lead the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the country's foremost scientific agency for oceanic and climate research.

The White House praised Myers and his company for its "highest grossing years, and its largest global web and mobile audience growth. He is one of the world's leading authorities on the use of weather information."

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Ocean Conservancy

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fisheries announced the approval of Gulf of Mexico fishery management plans Jan. 30 which, for the first time, include science-based catch limits and accountability measures to ensure that catch is kept within those limits for all federally managed fish species. In response, Ocean Conservancy issues the following statement from Chris Dorsett, director of fish conservation and Gulf restoration:

“This bodes well for a long future of good fishing and healthy fish populations in the region. Today’s action is an essential step in securing healthy and abundant fish populations that will in turn ensure fishing opportunities for generations of fishermen to come.

“This is the culmination of years of work by NOAA fisheries, the Gulf of Mexico Fishery Management Council, and fishing stakeholders and fulfills key requirements of the Magnuson-Stevens Fishery Conservation and Management Act which were added in 2007 with bipartisan support and the approval of a broad array of stakeholders.

“This approach is proven to work. Across the nation there are numerous examples of how science-based management coupled with accountability has ended overfishing of important commercial and recreational fish populations and allowed them to successfully begin recovery. In the Gulf of Mexico, this approach has dramatically improved the health of red snapper, supporting increasing catch levels over the last five years. The catch is poised to increase yet again in 2012.

“While the historic measures go into effect in the Gulf of Mexico today, by May they are expected to be in place nation-wide to prevent overfishing for all federally managed fisheries. This milestone follows on the heels of last week’s NOAA announcement of improved methods for estimating the amount of fish caught by marine recreational anglers. Taken together, the U.S. is well positioned to continue making significant strides in achieving healthy fisheries.

"Despite this progress, there are currently efforts in Congress to weaken key protections that prevent overfishing. The Gulf of Mexico is currently on the right track for a long future of good fishing and healthy fish populations because the law is working. Now isn’t the time for exemptions—these proven techniques must be allowed to keep working. Fully rebuilding our nation’s fisheries is expected to add $31 billion to the U.S. economy and an additional 500,000 jobs.”

For more information, click here.

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Ocean Conservancy is the world's foremost advocate for the oceans. Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, we inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act for the oceans. Ocean Conservancy is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific, with support from more than half a million members and volunteers.

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Ocean Conservancy

The Obama administration released a draft Implementation Plan on Jan. 12 for the National Ocean Policy. The draft provides strategic action plans for the policy’s nine priority objectives. In response, Ocean Conservancy released the following statement from Emily Woglom, director of Government Affairs:
 
“We applaud the administration for following though on the landmark National Ocean Policy with the release of this draft Implementation Plan. We hope the draft plan will provide the direction and guidance needed to tackle some of the many challenges facing our ocean, including planning for offshore energy, protecting important marine habitat and addressing changes affecting the Arctic.
 
“With the plan’s release, and momentum building, the administration should ensure the appropriate resources are provided to continue the much-needed work on comprehensive ocean-use planning. The next step, setting up regional planning bodies to help fight against haphazard use of ocean resources, will allow ocean uses to be coordinated and management decisions to be made on the regional level. This will be a win for all involved.
 
“Ocean Conservancy encourages everyone with a stake in the health of the ocean to participate in the comment period in order to make this process as public and transparent as possible. Input and engagement from all ocean users is vital for both this plan and future implementation of the National Ocean Policy to foster coordination for a healthier ocean. We look forward to providing detailed feedback on the plan and engaging with the National Ocean Council as the process moves ahead.”

To read and submit comments on the draft Implementation Plan, see the National Ocean Council's full statement below:

National Ocean Policy Draft Implementation Plan

As part of President Obama's National Policy for the Stewardship of the Ocean, Our Coasts, and the Great Lakes, the National Ocean Council has released a draft National Ocean Policy Implementation Plan to address some of the most pressing challenges facing the ocean, our coasts, and the Great Lakes. The draft Implementation Plan describes more than 50 actions the Federal Government will take to improve the health of the ocean, coasts, and Great Lakes, which support tens of millions of jobs, contribute trillions of dollars a year to the national economy, and are essential to public health and national security.

The draft Implementation Plan will ensure the Federal Government targets limited resources more effectively to deliver demonstrable results for the American people, including predictability for users, more efficient and coordinated decision-making, and improved sharing of data and technology. For each action, the plan outlines key milestones, identifies responsible agencies, and indicates the expected timeframe for completion.

Click here to read the draft Implementation Plan.

We Want to Hear From You

Click here to provide comments on the draft Implementation Plan. The public comment period is open until midnight EST, Feb. 27, 2012.

We are relying on your input to inform development of the final Implementation Plan and help ensure the National Ocean Policy is working for our nation. We welcome your general input, and also pose the following questions:

  • Does the draft Implementation Plan reflect actions you see are needed to address the nine priorities for the ocean, coasts, and the Great Lakes?
  • What is the most effective way to measure outcomes and to detect whether a particular action in the Implementation Plan has achieved its intended outcome? Would a report card format be useful?

Comments received will be collated and posted on the National Ocean Council website. The National Ocean Council will review and incorporate comments before finalizing the plan in 2012. The plan will be reviewed annually and modified as needed based on new information or changing conditions. 

Comments may also be sent by fax to “Attn: National Ocean Council” at (202) 456-0753, or by mail to: National Ocean Council, 722 Jackson Place, NW, Washington, D.C. 20503. Allow at least 2-3 weeks additional time for mailed comments to arrive.

More on the Development of the draft Implementation Plan

The draft Implementation Plan was developed with significant input from national, regional, and local stakeholders and the general public. The National Ocean Council sought public comment from January through April 2011 and June through July 2011, and held 12 regional listening sessions around the country. In addition, the Governance Coordinating Committee, composed of state, Tribal, and local government officials, and the Ocean Research Advisory Panel, composed of expert representatives from a range of ocean sectors, provided input for the plan.

In mid-2011, the National Ocean Council released for public comment outlines for nine Strategic Action Plans that provided an initial view on how federal agencies might address the nine priority objectives highlighted in the National Ocean Policy. The outlines, by design, were draft products that served as an early and valuable point in the Implementation Plan development process for focusing public and stakeholder input.

During the public comment period that was open June 2—July 2, 2011, the National Ocean Council received more than 400 contributions from more than 200 individuals and groups. In addition, approximately 1000 individuals and groups participated in and provided comments at 12 regional listening sessions around the country. The National Ocean Council agencies evaluated more than 850 specific comments from stakeholders and the public, many representing multiple submissions of very similar comments. We considered all of the comments and accepted many, incorporating them into the draft Implementation Plan

Click here to read a summary of the most substantive and frequent public comments and how they are addressed in the draft Implementation Plan.

Click here to read past public comments and learn about the Strategic Action Plans.

For more information, click here.

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Ocean Conservancy is the world's foremost advocate for the oceans. Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, we inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act for the oceans. Ocean Conservancy is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific, with support from more than half a million members and volunteers.

Ocean Conservancy

The first round of early restoration projects for the Gulf of Mexico were announced Dec. 14 by the British Petroleum (BP) Deepwater Horizon Natural Resource Damage Assessment Trustees. These kinds of projects are required by law in order to specifically address the damage to natural resources and public use of those resources caused by the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Ocean Conservancy issued the following statement from Chris Dorsett, director of Gulf Restoration and Fisheries Conservation programs:

“This is an important and positive first step. This kind of investment in early restoration is unprecedented and will begin the process of making good on promises to fully restore the Gulf of Mexico from the impacts of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster. Involving local communities in this process is essential to success. We are therefore encouraged to see a robust plan for public engagement in this first phase of restoration. Looking ahead, we anticipate that a more comprehensive oil disaster restoration program will be based on a strong on-going science program, additional opportunities for public engagement and a focus on restoration in both marine and coastal environments.

“Beyond the early restoration projects chosen through the Natural Resource Damage Assessment process to address impacts from the oil disaster, there must also be follow-through on the national commitment to address decades of degradation from sources such as coastal erosion, overfishing and excessive nutrient runoff that has produced a dead zone of depleted oxygen. These problems threaten fish, wildlife, the places where they live and the people who depend on a healthy ocean for jobs and business. The RESTORE Act, currently under consideration in Congress, is designed to direct the Clean Water Act fines BP and other responsible parties must pay into a broader restoration strategy to address these long term challenges and ensure a healthy and sustainable future.”

More information about Ocean Conservancy’s work to restore the Gulf of Mexico can be found by clicking here.

For more information, click here.

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Ocean Conservancy is the world's foremost advocate for the oceans. Through science-based advocacy, research, and public education, we inform, inspire and empower people to speak and act for the oceans. Ocean Conservancy is headquartered in Washington, DC, and has offices in Florida, the Gulf of Mexico, and the Pacific, with support from more than half a million members and volunteers. To learn more about Ocean Conservancy, click here.

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