Since 2006, more than 100 NOAA projects have removed in excess of 12 million pounds of marine debris from our oceans, most of it plastic that takes decades or even centuries to fully decompose. It’s a problem that isn’t going away anytime soon — the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is already estimated to cover more than 1.5 million square miles — even if we managed to never pollute the ocean with another piece of garbage.
How many of you have had a plastic bag or fishing line wrap around your boat’s prop? Have you ever had to swerve to avoid a fishing net or floating trap? How many times have you seen a soda bottle or a beer can floating on the waves? Did you know it can take the can 200 years to decompose, and the plastic bottle could still be around in 400 years?
While most of the trash that ends up in the ocean comes from land-based sources, washing into the sea through storm drains and ending up in the Garbage Patch or on a beach somewhere, boaters have a role to play in keeping the waters clear of debris. Heck, no matter how small a part recreational boaters play in the proliferation of marine debris, they have an obligation to do their part, because the water is their playground. No detail is too inconsequential. Even cigarette remnants contribute to marine debris and can end up in the belly of fish and birds, so flicking that butt overboard isn’t as harmless as you’d like to think.
On a separate but conservation-related note, for West Coast anglers who enjoy the frequent or occasional trip to Mexican waters, Mexico’s expansion of its marine reserve area shouldn’t affect recreational fishing. According to Fish Rap, even though the expansion of the marine reserve announced by Mexico’s president, Enrique Peña Nieto, includes the waters around the Coronado Islands, “The marine reserve, or biosphere, would still allow for human activities, such as fishing, to occur.”
The details of how the biosphere will be protected and how the protection will be enforced are still being worked out (and will likely be aimed more toward commercial, not sportfishing, interests). I’m sure the folks at Fish Rap (fishrap.com) will stay on top of it, as will the fishing fleet in San Diego. Mexico’s National Commission of Natural Protected Areas (conanp.gob.mx/english.php) will be responsible for managing the area.