Travel between countries is starting again in many parts of the world. Travel for humans, that is. For those who live in the natural world, it is migration season and travel is only part of the normal cycle of things, regardless of political boundaries. This is especially true in water where there is a literal fluidity of movement from place to place: shallow to deep, north to south, or salty to cool. The ocean is perhaps the best example of a global resource where all water is connected, as is everything that lives in it.
In an effort to recognize the transboundary nature of ocean creatures, states and even countries sometimes work together to monitor who lives where and when. The Gulf of Maine is a multi-level transboundary body of water. Although it has “Maine” in its title, it stretches across New Hampshire and parts of Massachusetts to the south. In the north, it reaches Canada. One of the groups that brought together the many parties working and studying the Gulf of Maine recently received funding to address the issue of marine debris collaboratively.
The Gulf of Maine Association is a non-profit organization whose mission is to “maintain and improve the quality of the environment in the Gulf of Maine and enable the sustainable use of resources by present and future generations.” Association partners have worked together on both research and policy in the past. The recently awarded grant is part of a larger initiative of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA) Marine Debris Prevention and Disposal Program in North America, which provides funding to prevent and remove debris from the oceans. across the country as well as in Mexico and up to Canada.
For this particular project, a number of familiar actors will be involved in efforts to reduce marine debris in the Gulf of Maine. They include the Blue Ocean Society for the Marine Environment, the Center for Coastal Studies, the Huntsman Marine Science Center, the Maine Coastal Program – Maine Department of Marine Resources, the Surfrider Foundation, the Urban Harbors Institute and the five jurisdictions bordering the Gulf. from Maine. The grant totals over $ 367,000 with an additional $ 448,000 in matching support. It enables these groups to move forward with the implementation of NOAA’s 2019 Gulf of Maine Marine Debris Action Plan.
Marine debris is a major problem facing all of the world’s oceans and efforts to address it are therefore not new. Many groups that are part of this current grant have also worked together on International Ocean Cleanup Day which takes place each September around the world. Ocean Conservancy, a Washington-based nonprofit that advocates for a sustainable ocean policy, coordinates these efforts and also collects data on cleanups to advocate for better policies to tackle marine debris. The effort started in 1986 with a small cleanup in Texas and has now spread to over 100 countries around the world.
Increasingly local, there are cleanups that occur regularly along the waterfront in many coastal communities in Maine. For example, last weekend a group of shellfish fishermen gathered at Wharton Point, one of the main launching points for those digging for clams, to clean up trash and debris along the shore. at launch as well as in other neighboring areas. This is a regular activity for fishermen who participate in one of the city’s intertidal conservation projects. At this point, volunteers need to dig deeper to find anything to collect, as the efforts have made a big difference over time.
Marine debris poses a serious threat to the oceans and it is a big step for groups to work together across borders to address it. As many of us have learned through the pandemic, we are all more closely connected than we previously thought and what happens in which part of the world is impacting another. Getting involved in a local effort to reduce marine debris is a tangible way to have a global impact. To find out more about this project, visit www.gulfofmaine.org