Posted by Pete DeLaunay on Feb 12, 2020
Biologist Tessa Code told Rotarians that individuals can make a difference.  During her talk, she described her work to research, assess, and remove marine debris through a project focused on isolated Hawaiian islands as part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Fish Population and Marine Debris Division. "We research the alarming amount of plastics in the Pacific Ocean that is primarily made up of fishing equipment, nets, and shoreline plastics,” she said.  These items are petroleum-based and not biodegradable.  She described her work in Northwestern Hawaiian Islands --low lying sand islands that have accumulated an alarming amount of plastic debris. The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are one of the most isolated places in the world and “covered in plastic absolutely everywhere.”

“Ocean currents and prevailing winds have accumulated what is called the ‘Great Pacific Garbage Patch’ that is actually three times the size of France,” she said.  It is estimated that 46% of the marine debris is made up of fishing gear.  NOAA began seriously looking at plastics in the ocean in 1996 to assess and prevent debris entanglements and marine life hazards.  The NOAA team removed two million pounds of fishing equipment, not including 52 tons of fishing nets.  “We conduct in-water surveys to identify and remove nets that have caused considerable damage to coral as well as sea life,” she continued.
Research findings include the disturbing fact that “90% of seabirds have plastics in their guts” and in one instance researchers removed 212 pieces of plastic from one bird!  When researchers inventoried the debris, in addition to fishing gear and nets, they found many household items such as lighters, 3,000 shoes, 2,000 toothbrushes, and 36,000 plastic bottles and jugs.  Tessa asked Rotarians to “say goodbye to plastics” and to start using reusable items such as water bottles and mugs, wooden instead of plastic utensils, reusable grocery bags, and to avoid using plastic-packaged vegetables.
“Be a good advocate by using sustainable alternatives, lobbying to reduce nets at sea, and be part of the solution by thinking about sustainability,” she said. “If you came home and your bathtub was overflowing, would you grab a mop or turn off the facet?”  

President Kim rang the bell and introduced Linda Rough with Burr Stewart on the piano for the day’s song, “What a Wonderful World,” followed by Nancy Cahill who provided the day’s inspiration centered around the theme, “evil scheming disturbs the schemer, so when in doubt love and speak the truth.”  Patrick Carter described the upcoming business networking event at the Hard Rock Café on Thursday, February 20th. Heather Fitzpatrick invited Rotarians to grab a paintbrush to spruce up Wellspring Family Services on February 22nd.  Jessica Bhuiyan encouraged Rotarians to attend the District 5030 Conference at Bell Harbor Conference Center on April 3-4.  Lynn Lindsay and Trish Bostrom reported that the Seattle Rotary Service Foundation has exceeded their goal with $230,000 in contributions.   Rick Newel, Mercer Island Rotarian, gave a short history of Paul Harris who coined the term RINO or Rotarian In Name Only as NOT being the spirit of Rotary as he rolled through Paul Harris’s interesting life.  

Thanks to Totem Reporter Pete DeLaunay

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