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More than 104 countries gathered 6.8 million pounds (3.1 million kgs) of trash, which included an estimated 11.4 million items from 6,485 sites around the world during the 23rd International Coastal Cleanup. The information compiled during the clean up has been analyzed in a new report - A Rising Tide of Ocean Debris and What We Can Do About It - from the Ocean Conservancy. The report represents the world’s only country-by-country, state-by-state analysis of trash in our oceans and waterways.

During the International Coastal Cleanup event held in September 2008, trash was collected and the data recorded by the 400,000 volunteers around the world who combed their local beaches and waterways during the largest volunteer effort of its kind. Cleanups were conducted on ocean and waterway shorelines, as well as underwater by 10,606 divers and onboard watercraft by 1,236 boaters.

This year’s report focuses on the hazardous impacts of trash on wildlife and the resilience of our ocean in the wake of rising sea levels, ocean warming and acidification, which are some of the most serious effects of global climate change.

"We simply cannot continue to put our trash in the ocean. The evidence turns up every day in dead and injured marine life, littered beaches that discourage tourists, and choked ocean ecosystems," explains Vikki Spruill, president and CEO of Ocean Conservancy. "This report analyzing nearly seven million pounds of trash is a global snapshot that shows how we are part of the marine debris problem—and a key to the solution.”

Ocean trash is one of the most widespread pollution problems of our time, and the report identifies the sources of the pollution and makes a series of recommendations to stop marine debris. The non-biodegradable trash, such as plastic, is ingested by sea creatures and birds who then cannot digest real food. These animals suffer agonizing deaths from starvation and poisoning. Once their body decomposes, the garbage inside their bodies is re-released into the oceans and the cycle continues.

"Trash doesn’t fall from the sky, it falls from our hands," continues Spruill. "Humans have created the problem of marine debris, and humans should step up and solve it."

During the clean-up 443 animals were found entangled or trapped by marine debris, of those, 268 were found alive and released. The top three most frequently found items during the clean up were cigarette butts, plastic bags, and food wrappers/containers. Volunteers collected 1,362,741 cigarette butts in the United States; 19,504 fishing nets in the United Kingdom; and 11,077 diapers in the Philippines.

According to the US Environmental Protection Agency, more than 50% of marine debris starts out on land.

Visit: http://www. oceanconservancy. org/

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