Avaya Interview—Save our Shores
Avaya recently had the pleasure of interviewing the Executive Director of Save our Shores - Katherine O’Dea. It's an enlightening look at the scope of issues facing our marine environment.
Save Our Shores has done extensive work around their own plastic pollution initiative, helping people make the connection between their lifestyle choices and the collective community that impacts plastic and trash on our oceans. And with that, I'd like to introduce you to Katherine. Welcome.
>> Thank you, Lee.
>> Katherine, tell us a little bit about yourself and your role at Save Our Shores.
>> Sure, so I'm the executive director at Save Our Shores. Which means I get to do just about everything from keeping the doors open on a daily basis, being the public face, like we're doing here today. Raising funds, making sure our programs are running smoothly. So it's a never ending job, never boring.
And it's doing really good work to save our most important resource on this planet.
>> Absolutely. Well it's wonderful to have you here. You know as we said this year's Earth Day theme is plastics. So let's talk about how plastics are impacting the ocean.
>> Yeah. Well, plastics are a pretty big issue for the oceans these days.
I mean it's a global issue. About 8 million tons of plastic flow into the ocean annually. And that's just sort of accumulating on what's already been in the ocean. So we have floating garbage patches. We have five gyres in our global ocean. They all take these small pieces of plastic pollution, large and small I should say, and just swirl them around in these gyres.
So some people think when you hear global ocean patch that you can see this big trash heap in the ocean if you were flying over it. That's not the case. It's all miles long in a column of gyrating plastic spinning and swirling, and it's really a soup. If it was just floating on top it would be much easier to manage, but it's not.
>> Yeah. And I've seen recent photos and video footage of that and it's shocking how much plastic pollution is in our oceans today. So beyond just the plastic pollution, what's the state of our oceans today?
>> Well, the oceans are challenged in a lot of ways, fortunately they are a natural system.
So they're very strong and resilient. But the ocean, you know in addition to the plastic pollution, we've got climate change. Finally, I think the world is beginning to recognize that climate/ocean nexus. And so the climate change has major impact on the oceans. Waters are warming causing sea level rise.
We're gonna see more coastal erosion, we're gonna see flooding, we're actually gonna see movement back away from the shores. So people living, five, six, seven, maybe even a mile inland might have ocean-front property someday. Maybe they think that's a good thing, but those people who are going to lose their property, not so much of a good thing.
Also the fishing communities are in danger. They tend to be low lying. So it's plastics, it's climate change, it's sea level rise, it's over fishing. That's another big issue in our ocean.
>> So what special challenges do we face in preserving life in the world's oceans?
>> Special challenges.
Oh wow. So I think, really humans' kind of need to change our behavior In a major way. We need to start looking at what are the products that we're producing. Do we need to produce all those products? What are they made of? Is that material recyclable, recoverable and recyclable?
Can we keep it spinning in the economy in the circular fashion? We need to think about when we're on vacation and we just sort of like having a good time and not following our routine, that it's not okay to throw your plastics or your food service ware, or your beach toys just on the beach and leave them there.
Or throw cigarette butts in the storm drain. It all flows to the ocean. Our ocean is this like final resting place for everything that we as humans sort of just put out there and litter.
>> It's shocking to see that people do that, because I think a lot of people when they're at home, they are conscious of that.
And I would hope that when people are in a foreign place or on vacation that they would have the same sort of value and respect. And it's sad that we would do that. So something certainly for all of us to keep in mind. Now I'm not here in California.
And I know that you are down in Santa Cruz. So I don't live near an ocean. So how am I then impacting the ocean, if I'm not near the ocean?
>> Well, we have rivers and streams and creeks. And everything, as I said, flows to the ocean. So people in landlocked communities like Colorado need can be aware of what they’re purchasing, what they’re throwing away, how it’s getting collected.
I mean a lot of trash ends up in the ocean flies out of our landfills or out of you trash bins. So we really need to be careful every step of the way of how you're treating the products that you own, that you buy, that you're discarding. We need to be very conscious, inland or waterfront, about what ends up in our streets.
Everything flows from storm drains into the ocean. So there's actually, a Former Director of Save our Shores now created the Inland Oceans Network to address this issue specifically. Even people who live hundreds, maybe thousands of miles from water in a landlocked place, because there are watersheds, because there are rivers and streams, they have to be careful what they're putting into those bodies of water.
It all goes to the ocean.
>> So we truly are all responsible for what's going on in the oceans.
>> Yes, absolutely, absolutely.
>> What impact does endangered fish have on the ocean's health?
>> Yeah, you're not gonna really talk about just endangered fish. But the fact that we're over fishing everywhere in the world, and there is illegal fishing.
I mean I have a stat here that from illegal fishing is about $23.5 billion worth of illegal fish every year. So that's a big issue. Even people who are very responsible fishermen who had been fisher folk for generations. That's their economy, that's their livelihood. They wanna keep fishing, they need to keep fishing.
Over a billion people rely on sea food as their primary source of protein. So, over fishing is a considerable issue. But there are many things we can do to sort of reverse that trend. So watch for the illegal fishing, and actually put international laws in place that are very harsh.
And really punish people who are doing that. One of the things that we can do to help manage fishing and the fishing industry and protect our fisheries is create these marine protected areas. Which we've done a tremendous job of doing in California. We have them up and down the entire coast and these marine protected areas, they're designated in different ways.
Some are open for fishing, many are not. Most you can do some kind of recreational activity in them, so they're not like barring people from enjoying the ocean. But it creates an environment where the eco systems can rejuvenate and the fish population can come back. And then they swim away from the marine protected areas and they go back into the fisheries and now the fisher folk have nice big healthy fish to catch.
So it's a win win for all. Even though at first fishermen sometimes think we're taking something away from them, we're hurting their economy, but that's not the intent at all. It's really to make it sustainable over the long time.
>> Right and so it's really a longer term, sort of practice.
>> It's a long term strategy, right.
>> Right, so would reducing or elimenating fish from our diets help to reverse the course that we're on?
>> We overconsume everything. We overconsume food too and a lot of it just gets wasted. Eating fish isn't going to go away and it is a very healthy protein source.
Except for those that have eaten the plastic in the ocean. For the most part, fish is a very healthy diet. I think cutting back on all things that have an impact on our environment is important. But unless we're willing to address population and reverse population growth, we need to feed people, and fish are healthy.
So I wouldn't suggest people stop eating fish, I'd just suggest that they make sure they understand where their fish comes from, that it was sustainably harvested, that it's wild caught and that sort of thing. So Katherine, what can we do personally, as individuals to positively impact the oceans?
>> Yeah, that's a great question cuz we all have a role to play. And I think first it starts with just being conscious. Just recognizing how very important the ocean is to our health and well-being. We come from the ocean. We are mostly water. We have the same salinity as the ocean.
So it's a really important resource for our life. And I think the easy things to do are sort of be conscious of what you're buying. What you order for food and what it comes in. Skip the coffee cup. Skip the straw. Bring your own coffee mug. Don't buy bottled water, get a reusable mug and carry your water in it.
Also things like if you really want to take action and feel like you've done something, get out and join a beach cleanup. Just go keep a bag with you when you're walking on the beach in the morning on your stroll and just pick up the pieces that you see along the way.
So if you don't pick them up, they're gonna go in the ocean and they're gonna impact a turtle or a whale or a sea otter. Yeah, so those sort of things. Just be very conscious, look for opportunities, and pick up your trash.
>> And even for those of us, again, that are landlocked, I mean, there's plenty of opportunities to do, clean ups of public areas.
Again, we talked about sort of common sense. If you see some trash and you're able to, just pick it up and put it away. It is those little things that really matter.
>> Right. But the really important thing is, it's a huge issue. It's a huge problem. But we have to stay optimistic.
Nature is very healthy and regenerative. It will heal itself, if we don't just continue to keep hammering it. Nature will win in the end, so it's in own best interest to take care of her.
>> Absolutely, absolutely. And again, it seems like it's just common sense on our part in order to do so.
So thank you so much.
>> Oh, thank you, Lee, it was great to be with you.
>> This has been great.