Promising partnership in Guatemala

Whalewatching continues to grow globally with new markets emerging. Guatemala is the latest country seeking to develop whale watch operations off its Pacific coast focusing on the annual migration of humpback whales that migrate through their waters December through June. The humpbacks are thought to be en route to/from their breeding and calving grounds off Costa Rica, and likely spend their summer months feeding near central California northward to BC, Canada.

Greg Kaufman, founder of Pacific Whale Foundation recently traveled to the small coastal community of Montericco, Guatemala — best known for its 20km- long nature reserve of coast and coastal mangrove wetlands — to speak with tour operators about whalewatching and learn first-hand their challenges and whale observations.

The department of tourism, INGUAT, reached out to Kaufman for advice on this new developing industry. They stressed the importance of wanting to take a scientific approach to cultivate sustainable tourism in the area. Kaufman shared his thoughts on regulation and responsible practices.

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Protecting the Ocean, One Purchase at a Time

Healthy oceans depend on a lot of factors – one of the most important being you and me. Our choices as consumers have a profound influence on the future of the marine environment, and believe it or not, can affect the smallest algae to the largest whale.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing consumer products typically comes with a big environmental price tag. A single t-shirt, for example, can use up to 700 gallons of water.  Not to mention the host of chemical dyes and pesticides that are associated with a shirt’s manufacturing.

As an organization committed to minimizing our environmental impact, Pacific Whale Foundation has taken numerous steps to green its retail operations. One way that we are making a difference is by substituting traditional products, like 100% cotton t-shirts made in China, with items that are more environmentally friendly.

One of our top sellers is the women’s v-neck, sea turtle shirt. What makes this shirt stand out is that it is made from 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton. Bamboo is considered a rapidly renewable resource due to its short growing time. Bamboo also has no natural pests and can therefore be grown without the use of pesticides. Compared to traditional cotton, bamboo requires 1/3 less water. In addition, bamboo fibers contain a unique microbe called “bamboo kun”. The “bamboo kun” makes bamboo fibers naturally antibacterial, antifungal and odor resistant. Bamboo-based fabrics are lightweight, strong and soft to the touch, making them great additions to any wardrobe.

 

Not your ordinary women's t-shirt!  Made from 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton.

Women’s v-neck, sea turtle shirt

 

On the men’s side, we’re gearing up for the winter season with a new line of Eco-fleece sweatshirts. Eco-Fleece is a high-quality polyester fiber made from 100% certified recycled plastic PET bottles. Using recycled products instead of virgin materials prevents billions of plastic bottles from entering landfills.   Reusing materials also reduces millions of barrels of oil and harmful emissions that would go into traditional production. Eco-fleece fibers are as strong as non-recycled fibers, but are made without depleting the Earth’s natural resources. Each Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Fleece sweatshirt is made with a single 20-oz water bottle that has been blended with cotton and polyester.

 

Eco-fleece made from recycled plastic water bottles

Eco-fleece sweatshirt

 

Our new child-proof line of dishware also makes use of recycled plastics. Created by Green Eats, a San Francisco-based company, this tabletop set is made from 100% recycled plastic. It is free of BPA, phthalates and melamine, meaning that your kids won’t be ingesting any harmful chemicals while eating off their plate. Compared to non-recycled plastic, every pound of recycled plastic used to make Green Eats dishes save enough energy to run a laptop computer for an entire month. Environmentally friendly, kid friendly, and pocketbook friendly.

 

Kid-friendly dishware, made from 100% recycled plastic.

Kid-friendly dishware, made from 100% recycled plastic.

 

While these products are all environmentally preferable, we realize that we still have a long way to go towards being completely sustainable. Nevertheless, we feel it is important to take the first steps towards inspiring “green” products and “green” consumers. To see our entire line of green products, visit the Pacific Whale Foundation Ocean Store.

 

 

 

Making Waves through the “Eco-Revolution”

While the individuals who comprise the term “ocean activists” all work towards a common goal, the reality is, “ocean activists” come in a variety of shapes and forms, and all are armed with unique talents.

Some, for example, may use their gift of oratory to lobby on Capitol Hill or inspire others to take action at the public level.  Others address issues such as coastal erosion by restoring native dune systems and watersheds.  And still others weld the talent of a camera.

Peter Jay Brown, ocean activist, posing with the Sea Shepherd ship.

Peter Jay Brown, ocean activist, posing with the Sea Shepherd ship.

Enter Peter Jay Brown, a vivacious and outspoken ocean activist who has spent his adult life exposing environmental injustices throughout the world.  A professional cinematographer by trade, Peter Jay Brown launched his environmental career as a young boy on Cape Cod, protesting the creation of a deep water harbor.

While, with the help of President Kennedy, the harbor plan was diverted, the experience ignited a passion within Brown that would shape the rest of his life.

Pacific Whale Foundation was fortunate enough to host Brown during our recent Making Waves lectures series, held on September 10, 2014 at Pacific Whale Foundation’s Ocean Discovery Center.

Throughout the lecture, Brown entertained the audience with tales of his worldly exploits, leading us on adventures from Iceland to Japan, to South America and back.  Most recognized publicly for his stint on the critically acclaimed TV-reality series “Whale Wars”, Brown now largely works independently, partnering where he can to use his cinematography talents to raise awareness about a myriad of ocean issues.

Peter Jay Brown address Pacific Whale Foundation audience at recent lecture series

Peter Jay Brown address Pacific Whale Foundation audience at recent lecture series

Beyond the entertainment value, though, Brown spoke with true passion and sincerity about the realities of being involved with the environmental movement.  “Saving the world”, so to speaks, is a game of high stakes, little glory and a lot of emotions.  Furthermore, even the most simplistic of issues are rife with complexities, politics and people who are always looking to make a buck.

Brown nevertheless encouraged the audience, young and old, to become a part of the “Eco-Revolution”.  Making a difference, he said, rests on our individual ability to take immediate action.

There are hundreds of ways we, as the public, can get involved in what Pacific Whale Foundation likes to call “being part of the solution” – taking specific actions towards solving ocean issues.  Brown is that individual, though, that reminds us there is no better time than the present to make a difference.

Did you miss the Making Waves lecture? Watch a short clip here!

Want to start making a difference?  Visit Pacific Whale Foundation’s Conservation Page to learn more about the issues that are impacting our oceans and marine life!

The Plastic Problem: Part I “What are Plastics”

Plastics are everywhere – from cell phones to soda bottles, to trash on the beach and in our oceans. Yet while our lives are dominated by plastic, plastics and their environmental impacts are still largely misunderstood by many people. This three part series explores plastics—from their creation to what happens once they go in your trash can or recycling bin. Part I begins by answering the first big question: “What are plastics?!” 

While some plastics are naturally found in the environment, the majority are man-made. Man-made plastics are created when individual carbon molecules are chemically bonded together. These carbon molecules are typically extracted from oil, a non-renewable resource, but more eco-friendly alternatives use carbon derived from natural materials like corn oil. Individual carbon molecules are combined to create compounds like styrene, ethylene and formaldehyde. 

There are nearly limitless ways in which carbon molecules can be combined, which allows the creation of hundreds of types of plastics. One of the most prized characteristics of plastic is its ability to remain chemically inert when mixed with other substances.

This allows, for example, the storage of substances such as alcohol and gasoline in plastic containers, without compromising the integrity of the container itself. However, because plastic does not react chemically with other substances, it also does not easily decay. In fact, plastic never actually goes away in the environment—it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.

clamshells_individual

Another important chemical property of plastic is its ability to be easily molded into a variety of shapes, a characteristic that allows it to be extremely versatile and used in numerous applications. Plastics can be divided into two major categories: thermoset plastics that retain their shape once cooled and hardened, and thermoplastics that are less rigid and can return to their original form upon heating.

Thermoset plastics are used for auto and aircraft parts, while thermoplastics are easily molded and extruded into fibers, packaging and films. Within these two broad categories are numerous types of plastics:

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the main plastic in ziplock food storage bags;
  • Polystyrene (Styrofoam) is formed by styrene molecules. It can form a hard impact-resistant plastic for furniture, cabinets and utensils and when heated and air blown, forms Styrofoam;
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a thermoplastic commonly used for pipes and plumbing because of its durability and low cost as compared to metals;
  • Polyethylene is a type of plastic that comes in two forms: LDPE and HDPE
    •  Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) will float in a mixture of alcohol and water and is soft and flexible. It was first used to insulate electrical wires, but today it’s used in films, wraps, bottles, disposable gloves and garbage bags;
    • High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is a harder plastic than LDPE and sinks in an alcohol-water mixture.  Today, HDPE is used mostly for containers.

Plastics have proven revolutionary to our society, and we can thank plastics for hundreds of technological advances in science, medicine, space exploration, communication—you name it, plastics have played a crucial role. Yet despite the importance of plastic in today’s world, plastics have also proven to be one of the world’s biggest environmental issues.

Stay tuned for Part II: Where Does Plastic Go?

Field Report from Chile

Chile’s Chiloé Island and its surrounding waters serve as a crucial feeding ground for blue whales of the southern hemisphere, a migratory route for several bird species, and are a key area for the critically endangered southeast population of southern right whales.

However, the long-term conservation of the area is under threat due to the planned construction of a mega wind farm project on the coast line of Mar Brava, one of the richest zones of coastal biodiversity in Chile. Although renewable energy resources are a great alternative to reducing the consumption of fossil fuels, they can also have a negative environmental impact if not suitably located.

In November 2013, Centro de Conservatcion Cetacea participated with the International League of Conservation Photographers in documenting the area and biodiversity that would be negatively affected by this project. The work is being used to support a strong public campaign for the relocation of the mega wind farm project, and grant long term protection to the area from industrial development.

Hawai’i Conservation Conference

lauren_conference2Today marked the final day of the 22nd annual Hawai’i Conservation Conference, where the “who’s who” of the protection and management of Hawaiian ecosystems descend upon the island of O’ahu to discuss issues such as coral reef health, marine mammal protection, climate change adaptation and building local capacity.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to exhibit Pacific Whale Foundation’s fishing line recycling program during the conference, and connected with numerous individuals and organizations to help expand this important program throughout Hawai’i.

Fishing line wrapped around a coral head (Maui)

Fishing line wrapped around a coral head (Maui)

Popularized in Florida, fishing line recycling programs are now found throughout coastal states, and represent a voluntary, community-based environmental initiative. Anglers and fishermen are encouraged to not only recycle their line, but to sponsor bins that they (along with their community) will maintain in the future.

Improperly discarded fishing line can entangle wildlife (most notably turtles, fish, seabirds and wildlife), and also pose a hazard to boaters and ocean users. By encouraging anglers to recycle their line, the program both directly reduces the amount of line that ends up in the environment and reduces the amount of virgin plastic that is needed to make items such as tackle boxes or spools.  And as you may know, plastics are the number one most common piece of trash found in the environment – so the less plastic we create, the less trash we make!

Kahului Fishing Line Recycling Bin

Kahului Fishing Line Recycling Bin

To date, Pacific Whale Foundation has installed two separate bins – one at Kahului Harbor and one at Ma’alaea Harbor.  These bins have thus far collected over 5,000 feet of monofilament line!!

Marine debris is a serious issue throughout the world’s marine and coastal environments, but it is local initiatives such as recycling fishing line or encouraging the use of reusable bags and water bottles that will lead to a more healthy (and happy!) environment.  These types of initiatives, furthermore, put the change directly in the hands of the community, and in doing so, empower the people who rely directly on the resources.

To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation’s fishing line recycling program, please visit Don’t Leave Your Line Behind.