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October 2017    Download the Entire Issue (PDF) Available to the Public Vol. 32, No. 10   RSS Feed for Undercurrent Issues
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Charting Marine Litter Levels

from the October, 2017 issue of Undercurrent   Subscribe Now

It's upsetting to witness a marine animal tangled in plastic or even attempting to eat it, but it's becoming more common. However, reporting marine debris just got easier. A new smartphone app is enabling scuba divers across the world to easily record information regarding any marine litter they might come across.

The data will help Project AWARE (a non-profit organization working with volunteer divers, with offices in the U.S., the UK and Australia) to build a database to share with science and conservation bodies to provide evidence to drive long-term change in waste management. Governments can introduce laws such as one in Kenya where the trading in, supply of and even possession of plastic bags can render the miscreant liable to a massive fine and even time in jail. That's good news for turtles, which have been filmed devouring plastic bags, most likely because they have mistaken them for jellyfish, a dietary staple.

In 2016, divers reported 1,624 cases of entanglement of marine animals during surveys for Project AWARE. This includes plastic bags and netting.

After completing a clean-up, whether it be removing one item such as a ghost fishing net or a mass of smaller items, divers simply report the debris removed and the dive conditions, and then upload any photos. The app stores diver's data regardless of data connection.

Since so many divers have their smartphone with them on dive excursions, Project AWARE can exploit this resource, making their initiatives more effective. To get involved, go to your app store (Google Play or iTunes) for the free Dive Against Debris app.

Don't merely be appalled at the rubbish you see under water. Do something about it!

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