The ocean is a big place. And we keep putting our crap in it. But how is human-made trash ending up in our oceans? Surely people aren’t still dumping tons of trash into our oceans purposefully, right? And with so much trash in the ocean, what can the average person do to help?
On today’s episode of The Urban Monk, Pedram invites Elizabeth Murdock, director of the Pacific Ocean initiative at the Natural Resources Defense Council, to discuss the current state of the oceans. How has human trash affected sea life in the oceans? Do we actively have to get into the ocean to clean it up? What preventative steps can we take to ensure our trash does not end up in the ocean?
Learn more about Elizabeth and the amazing work of the NRDC here: https://www.nrdc.org/
– Welcome back to the Urban Monk. I’m happy to be back in studio. Finally done filming the Prosperity movie. I promise, it is done, it is locked. It’s off to edit. I can’t tell you what happened at the end of this thing. I was just in Panama finishing it out. It was a really interesting end to the movie and you’re gonna have to wait till it comes out. But you know, needless to say, it had a lot to do with oceans. And some of the things that kind of came up in the arch of our development of the story that weren’t in the movie originally had to do with noticing some of the crap floating around in the oceans where we’re filming some of this stuff. And so it really got me sparked on the subject. And I started looking into it. And man, we got some work to do. There is a lot of plastic in our oceans. And what we see on the surface is maybe 50% of what’s in it, the rest of it’s sinking to the bottom. So it’s creating a very big problem. So we called in an air strike here. You know how I love having the smartest people on the show. I have Elizabeth Murdock from the Natural Resources Defense Council. These guys have been on the frontline on a lot of these issues. And they have a very big ocean initiative and so who better to talk to about this topic? Hi and welcome to the show.
– Thank you so much, Pedram, it’s really an honor to be here and I’m really really pleased to get a chance to talk with you and your audience.
– So first of all, thanks for doing the work that you do. This is, it’s often times a thankless job doing this stuff. And it’s often times, man, it’s just so big. It’s really hard to compete with you know, China, dumping stuff in the ocean all the time. So it’s like sometimes we feel like we’re scratching the surface. But it’s still, you know, I kind of think of the old Gandalf quote. Might be a fool’s hope, but we still gotta go after it kind of thing, right?
– [Elizabeth] Definitely.
– And so let’s just let my audience know what the NRDC is, mission and all that. So we can kind of set the table and then go in and talk about the rest of the stuff.
– Sure, I’d be happy to talk about that. So the Natural Resources Defense Council is one of the most effective environmental organizations in the U.S. And we have been, our president likes to say, we’ve been suing polluters since 1970. We have been on the frontlines of protecting our air, water, communities, wildlife, since the 1970s. And we do that through law, policy, advocacy and science. So it’s a really exciting place to work. And I feel really honored to be part of that effort to protect our planet.
– Yeah, yeah. I mean someone’s gotta do it, right? And so here’s one of the things that I kind of feel happens a lot. Especially in like my circle of friends, it’s like there’s people out there that do this. Who are like oh, you know, we have our troops that go and fight for us. But you guys A, you need funding. B, you need clicks and votes and signatures and all the things that help you kind of make it happen. And so you’re actually on the front line. Like if I’m pissed off about something oceanic, chances are you’re gonna be able to help us get that solved. ‘Cause you’ve been running those miles and you’ve been really at the front lines of this stuff.
– Yeah, that’s what we try to do certainly and I think either obviously it is an effort of thousands of people. So I think NRDC works really deeply on a bunch of different issues and we also network with other really excellent organizations. And try to partner with them. And then as you mentioned too, engaging communities. I think increasingly this is really an important element. And the truth is, I just said increasingly. But it has always been an important element of environmental protection. That the communities that are affected step forward and talk about what those impacts are. Whether it’s the impacts of over fishing. On fishermen who’ve relied on that resource for their livelihood. Or whether it’s the blight of plastic bags. And plastic bottles in your neighborhood. Or whether it’s pollution coming from a dirty energy plant in your neighborhood. So anyways, that’s really a complex network.
– So and it’s a complex problem set too which is really the challenge here. So you know, when I’m in, off on these adventures in Panama, and I came home with an ear infection. So something about that water, right? So you know, we did do a victory swim.
– I’ll get right on that.
– Yeah, exactly. So there’s hard plastic. Then there’s the soft plastic. Like the plastic bags. And there’s tin and all sorts of other things, styrofoam, so there’s all kinds of gunk in the water. And there’s certain types of plastic you take and recycle but it’s real expensive to do so. Then there’s the plastic we don’t see. So you know, the microbeads and like, you know, just the polyester shirt that goes through the washing machine and all that. So I’d love to kind of see the lay of the land. ‘Cause I think a lot of people think of like plastic bags and I wanna talk about the, you know, thank God you guys have done a lot of work on that. And gotten those kind of out of certain counties and now looks like all of California. Yes?
– Yes, that’s correct. Yes, yes, we just had a huge push this last election, actually in November. To maintain our plastic ban. And I’d be happy to talk more about that. But we actually got it on the ballot, state wide ban on plastic bags. And then the bag manufacturers pushed to get a referendum on the ballot to undo that law. And Californians stood strong. And kept our law in place. ‘Cause people I think are really really concerned about this issue.
– And it’s a big one, I did a story with a big recycling company up in the Bay area couple years ago. And you know, they have these huge 70 million dollar, 100 million dollar facilities that are sorting trash and pulling out recycle bowls and all this kind of stuff. And I look over at this one pile and I’m like, what about plastic bags? He’s like, nothing, we got nothing. Right? Like it’s just, we can’t do anything. So I just assume I have a plastic bag, I’m gonna throw it in the recycling bin. And somehow just magically gonna, you know, clear my karma. It just doesn’t work that way.
– Right. Right, yeah and I should say, there’s a whole science to a lot of this sort of waste recycling and reuse. And a lot of it goes beyond my expertise. But I can say that there are certain grades of plastic that are very valuable and easy to recycle. And there are others that are not. And so that tends to drive what ends up getting recycled. So like, say your bottles that holds coca cola or soda or that sort of thing. Those are made of a material that’s easier to recycle than say, plastic bags. And of course the other problem with plastic bags and this is true of foam too. Is that they get airborne pretty easily. So even if you put them in the trash can, they can blow out. And then they can easily make their way into the waterway. And then easily make their way from fresh water into oceans. Where they either entangle or can suffocate or be ingested by creatures that we care about like sea turtles and sea otters. And even all those little guys that we care about. Or they can break down into tiny little pieces of plastic that just never go away and still damage the marine environment.
– I think there’s a lot of people that at this point may have seen the great Pacific gyre of plastic. I hear mixed stats on this. They say it’s the size of Texas. Now I’ve heard people say it’s the size of continental U.S. I don’t really know. But it’s just a lot of plastic.
– [Elizabeth] Right.
– So what is it? And there’s I think seven of ’em? Like what’s the state of the oceans with all this stuff? Like how much are we dealing with? And we start talking these statistics. It’s almost hard to fathom.
– Right. There are couple different ways to answer that. And I guess one thing I would say too is that there’s still a lot that we don’t know. Of course, about this issue. Exactly how all the plastic gets into the ocean. All the sources and all the impacts it has. Some estimate are that there’s eight million tons of trash a year of plastic, pardon me, of plastic waste that ends up in the oceans every year. About 80% of that we think comes from land based sources. There’s other plastic that gets in off of ships. It could be a derelict fishing gear, fishing gear that’s been broken or cut loose. I actually understand it can also be from shipping containers. Sometimes when there are high seas, the nets that those big container ships use to strap down their cargo can actually wash off. Or their cargo itself can wash off. Like Moby Duck, you know, the rubber duck that floated all around the ocean. So there are lots of ways it gets there. Then I’m glad you mentioned the gyre. Those are interesting. I think there are five of them. And if I’m not, I think that’s right. Five or seven. And these are areas where that plastic en masses, they are massive areas. And as you mentioned earlier, it’s not just big chunks of plastic floating around. It does break down over time into smaller pieces. And distressingly, it distributes through the water column. So it’s not just like, we often get asked that question. Can’t you just go out there with a big boom and scrape it all in? You know, and pick it up? How about a vacuum? But the problem is it distributes through the water column. Hundreds, thousands of feet down. And so there’s not way to go scrape it up. Once it’s there, it breaks down and it gets integrated into the ocean and it’s really incredibly difficult to extract.
– These micro particles, if you start looking at some of the blood work and the kind of cellular chemistry in human beings, we have a certain percentage of us now that’s plastic, right? It gets ingested. And so we are consuming plastic in one way or another. Chewing gum, it’s food grade plastic. I mean there’s plastic everywhere. And so what, I saw a story a few months ago that just blew my mind is, in one of these, I think it’s the Pacific gyre, there’s a species of crab that now has adapted to be able to eat plastic. And so it now metabolizes the plastic and it’s like made of plastic because that’s what it eats. And so we’ve actually like birthed a new plastic species and so I’m just waiting for like some smarter like squid or something to start eating that crab and all of a sudden we’re gonna have like, you know, these whole new plastic inspired species growing biologically as hybrids out of our oceans. Which is kind of creepy.
– Yeah, it’s really distressing. And I think the other thing too, I mean there are questions around what the impact of the plastic itself is on marine organisms. And then on human beings who eat those marine organisms. That’s one interesting area of science people are looking at. And there was actually a study that came out about maybe a year and a half ago that showed I think it was about a quarter of the fish that were caught off the coat of California had some form of plastic. You mentioned fibers like from your fleece jacket, for example, in their gut. Now the question that scientists are scratching their head about is, if you don’t eat the gut of the fish, is that toxin transferring to the flesh? Are you actually consuming it if it’s in the gut? But you know, even if you’re not actually getting that plastic, we also know that plastics tend to attract or kind of aggregate other pollutants that are in the ocean. So like PCBs, DDT, all that bad stuff that you don’t want in your body. Actually tends to cling to those plastics. And so that as the plastics get ingested, and move up the food chain, those other toxins are also concentrating in the flesh of these marine animals that we eat. So a lot’s not understood. But there’s certainly plenty of room for concern.
– Yeah. So I mean, out of sight, out of mind. But if you’re eating fish, and everyone’s like, oh okay, you know, I don’t want farmed salmon, I need wild caught salmon. Because you know, somehow the ocean is magically pure and clean. Most people don’t get the kind of the gory view, the detail of what’s actually in the water. Even when the salmon is, so you gotta go to further and further places. But I mean if you’re eating fish, at some point you’re eating plastic. You’re eating some exposure to these chemicals that have been there. And that’s a big deal. And we don’t even know how big of a deal it is because we haven’t really understood the fallout yet, right?
– I think that’s correct. In a sort of an organization surrounded by scientists, I think that we say well, we don’t fully understand. We don’t fully understand what those impacts are. But what we do know is that at some level, those toxins are definitely transferring to our bodies. But the other thing about plastic too beyond that kind of human impact, is that these plastics in the oceans are having a really significant impact on marine species. So everything from, and I think I mentioned too, that the two kind of biggest threats are entanglement where species actually get stuck in, it could be an old net, or a piece of fishing line. Or it could be, I saw a horrifying picture during the California bag ban effort of a mother sea otter that had a baby sea otter that had swum into a plastic bag and it was over the sea otter’s head. And the mother was trying to get it off. So horrifying impacts of entanglement. Also ingestion. So sea turtles and sea birds tend to eat these things. So they either die ’cause they choke. Like a sea turtle might mistake a plastic bag for a jellyfish, looks very similar. And it eats and it literally suffocates. Or in the case of like the northwest Hawaiian islands, where 80 or 90% of albatross chicks have plastic in their gut. And this is because their parents have gone out to forage and they found these chicks that have cigarette lighters in their stomachs. And they have starved because they feel full but what they’re eating is not food. It’s plastic. So you know, it’s really just horrifying impacts.
– Wow. That’s the stuff that we can see. And the micro particle stuff. I mean, who even knows? I mean, I know that there’s some kind of fancy things that you can add to your washing machine that help kind of pull the micro particle, plastics out. But you know, that’s an expense. And who wants to be inconvenienced for the sake of the future? I mean, come on. So that doesn’t really happen. And so we don’t even know what these micro plastics are doing to what degree it’s even in the water.
– I think that is true. And so actually one of the things a lot of the environmental groups worked on a year ago was trying to get, well actually we’ve done it at the state level and at the federal level. We’ve attempted to get bans on some of these micro plastic products. And again, once again I say, oh, we don’t understand everything. We don’t even know all the products that contain these micro plastics. Or if products that can break down into micro plastics. But we do know some. Toothpastes and soaps and those kinds of materials, some of the makeups, have little bits of plastic in them. For various purposes. And so we got a ban on that use of those micro beads in California for that reason. And then a federal ban was passed that restrict, that banned use of those micro beads in some restricted amount of products. Kind of personal hygiene products. And so that’s very important. How we tackle this issue of micro fibers and getting them out of the waterways is really tricky. And we’ve, environmentalists have been looking at you know, are there bans we can have? Are there ways to ask the manufacturers of certain products to be responsible? Like, are there filters we can put on washers to kind of get this out so it doesn’t get into the sewer system? So it’s very very tricky. And still lots to be learned, not just about the impacts to use and what we’re not seeing, but also about what products we’ve even using that’s putting this into the oceans in the first place.
– So we don’t even know the products yet because what, is there not a labeling requirement? Or is there a particular type of ingredient?
– I believe that is correct. That there are not all these products are required to disclose what’s going in. Into their products. And so some of these things we know. And some of them we don’t know. Like say, nail polish, does that have plastic in it or not? We’re not sure.
– That’s interesting. So a lot of this needs to happen at the manufacture level. If you’re down stream trying to clean plastic out of water, that seems like a huge effort. It makes much more sense to not put it into the, but I mean polyester, from cotton to polyester is a huge revolution now. I mean, most environmentalists I know talk about saying, hey, wear merino wool. Wear cotton. Wear natural fabrics ’cause at least we know that they’re not gonna kick off crap.
– Think a lot of these environmental problems, this is another one that requires kind of a suite of solutions. And so yes, one effort is to try to encourage manufacturers to think about what these impacts are gonna be and to think about how to collect whatever that waste material might be at the back end. A lot of it is also about pushing one of the major drivers is let’s get away from single use plastics. I realize that’s not necessarily these micro fibers we’re talking about. But let’s talk about reusability and that sort of thing. And so it’s also design. And that’s kind of what you’re getting at with let’s wear merino wool instead. What are the actual materials that are being used? And how’s the product design? I think all of those things come into the solution, honestly. And I think it calls for a look at too at our consumer habits. What is it that we’re buying? Because you know, there have been studies, for example, that point to some of the Asian countries as being the places from which a lot of these plastics flow into the ocean. But we also know that a lot of those countries are producing things that are demanded by U.S. consumers and European consumers. So it is really a global problem.
– Yeah. Thing is, my, the director of the movie that we’re making, he’s leading my parents, went and got him this shirt. They’re like, oh, he’s eco. So they went and got him a shirt from Costco that was famously, all their whole branding was like this shirt was made from five plastic bottles of water. I’m like okay, that’s cool. That’s good reuse of plastic bottles of water. But you know, is that now going to be rerelease slowly through the washing machine back into the water? Right? So it’s one of those like weird kind of complex am I doing the right thing kind of questions, right?
– Right, I’ve thought of that very problem around this micro fiber issue. And I’m not really sure what the answer is. I mean I think the best knowledge is yes, these fibers tend to slough back off. And they end up in the sewer system and they’re too fine to get filtered out by our water systems. So I think it is definitely a concern. But you know, I think certainly it’s a good thing that they recycle those bottles too.
– Totally, right, right. Is this good or bad I can’t tell. It’s so complicated. You know, for me, because I’m a backpacker. And when you finally, you’ve used some of the newer materials, you’re like, wow, cotton sucks. So you just, the new stuff breathes so much better and all that. And then I found merino wool. And you know what? Merino wool’s just wonderful. And it wicks the moisture, it’s really good at a lot of things. It’s a natural fiber. And so I don’t really miss the light polyester, the weird funky chem lab materials as much. Because the merino wool does it. So for me, it’s like okay, I’m gonna buy this versus that.
– [Elizabeth] Right, right.
– And that’s on the consumption side.
– Yeah, and I am actually a big proponent of consumers singing about what they eat. I think about this a lot with seafood too. Because you know there are these tools to help us think through what’s sustainable seafood and what’s not. And I think the same thing applies to these plastic products. And I truly, I don’t have a perfect answer for this question because it sort of seems like there’s an impact no matter which way you go. But I do think it’s really important to think about these things. And you know, and I try to make personally a lot of choices that veer away from plastic because I am worried that that is just a material that doesn’t break down. No matter how small it gets, it’s still not breaking down. It’s still causing issues. And so I do try to steer clear of it. But you know, one of the other things that’s true is that plastic, when you think about say, uses of plastic in medicine, deeply important. It was an incredibly important discovery. So a lot of us that work on this issue try to make it clear. Okay, we’re worried about single use plastics, we’re worried about microbeads, you know, we’re worried about bag ban, plastic bags. And we’re not trying to say that anything made out of plastic is a horrible product. Because it’s really really important and it’s been revolutionary for us. In a lot of important ways.
– Oh yeah. Yeah, I mean, I don’t care who you are, you’ve got plastic in your life in some capacity.
– [Elizabeth] Exactly, exactly.
– Yeah, it’s a baby bath water question. All the way around. So let’s talk about acidification of the ocean. I know that’s a big deal. Does the plastic lead to that? Is it more just rising temperatures? Like why are the oceans getting more acidic?
– I’m so glad you brought that up. Because this is kind of one of those less well known topics, I think. And it’s also often gets confused with climate change. So I guess what I would say is that there are two very distressing impacts on the oceans from a changing climate. From the increase of carbon dioxide in our air. One is global warming. And that’s you know, we all know about that. This is the planet actually warming. And what that means for the ocean is that the temperature of the ocean is warming. It’s warming at different rates in different places. And that can cause issues to shift. And it can cause all this other sorts of changes in the ocean. And then the other one is ocean acidification. And in this case, what’s happening, it’s actually pretty straightforward chemistry. As the CO2 increases in our atmosphere, about a third of that gets dissolved back into the ocean. And actually dissolves most quickly in to the coldest water. So the poles are feeling this most quickly. And it literally is changing the chemistry of the ocean, it’s becoming more acidic. The pH level has changed. And since the beginning of the industrial revolution, our oceans are about 30% more acidic than they were prior to the industrial revolution. And we think that might double I think in about 100 years. That it could again increase by another 30%. And what that’s doing as that, as the acidity level rises, it makes it harder for certain creatures to exist. So for example, shellfish have a hard time building their shells in those more acidic waters. And we’ve seen this in a very real way in the pacific northwest where the oysters have not reproduced as well over the last five years. And it’s because of this change in acidification. We also see it in places like the Great Barrier Reef where corals are having a harder time calcifying because the calcium carbonate is not as available to them in the water. So it’s very distressing.
– That’s really interesting. It’s like you can’t hide it. You can’t see the CO2 really, but at the end of the day, you’re measuring it. And politically, we got people denying it. So that doesn’t help, right?
– [Elizabeth] Right.
– So but we’re actually, this is hard science. We know that this is happening, the oceans are becoming more acidic. And it’s across the board. All oceans, all over the world kind of thing? But more in cold water.
– Yes, it is all oceans all around the world. It is happening at different rates, at different parts of the world. So like I said, the colder water is absorbing this CO2 more quickly. So they’re acidifying more rapidly at the poles. It’s a great concern along the Pacific coast of the U.S. because there’s a large area of kind of cold water upwelling there and we’re already starting to see in California the impacts of acidification. The tropics, it’s actually happening more slowly. But because coral reefs are so very sensitive to warming waters, the acidification is like another cut in the death of 1000 cuts, if you will. So those are some of the concerns. And yeah, we definitely are seeing impacts without a doubt.
– Yeah. So just on this kind of political front, it’s very difficult being in an era right now where we have so much hard science saying this is happening. And we need to do something about it. And then having this kind of political backlash of these kind of climate deniers and what’s happening with the EPA. And all sorts of things that are very regressive and dark. You know, and obviously, industry has a lot to do with this. So what does one even do in that type of thing? We got eco zones that we’re trying to protect. We’re trying to protect all sorts of things within the environment. And now the kind of administration isn’t allowing for some of this to move forward as quickly as we need.
– Right. Yeah, well I mean, I think, I can tell you what NRDC is doing. Is trying to stand very strong on what we see as the central tenants of ocean protection. And so some of the areas we’re really concerned about are secure, we in the state of California, and nationally have made good progress in protecting some marine areas. Like underwater parks. Think national parks. Think Grand Canyon. But these are areas like off the coast of the Atlantic. Where we just had the first ever marine monument designated off of the continental U.S. And in Hawaii, a few years ago, I think it was 2006, George W. Bush actually designated the first ever marine monument period in the U.S. around the northwest Hawaiian islands. And these are critically important marine areas. And so that’s crucial to the sort of overall network of, or formula for protecting the health of the oceans. So we are very concerned about ensuring that those protections stay strong. And so we are tracking what’s going on in Congress. And trying to make sure that there’s no erosion of those protections. And then we’re also concerned about keeping our sustainable fishing laws strong. And keeping our, and not opening new areas to offshore drilling, for example. Because one, it’s intensely damaging to marine habitats, and two, it’s the wrong direction to go right now. We’re stressing, we’re increasing under the stresses of climate change. And we want to be able to address that. So more and more Americans want renewable energy not oil. So those are all issues that we are tracking. And I think the most important thing that your listeners can do is actually speak out in support of those things. In support of marine protected areas. In support of sustainable fishing laws. Against off shore drilling. And let your voices be heard, really to your senators and representatives. This is making a huge impact on our decision makers there in Washington when they’re hearing from people in town halls. We care about the oceans. We care about the environment. We believe in climate change. And we need to be a leader. The U.S. does.
– So that’s something that I think people have kind of lost a little bit of faith in. ‘Cause people have been kind of writing their Congressmen here and there and all this. And they feel like you know, the world is sliding faster than we’re able to fix it. And so I feel like there’s been this kind of overall pessimism kind of starting to boil over. But you are you know, you’re at a council where you are doing this work. You’re seeing how it actually plays out in the congressional districts. And how it plays out with the politicians. And what I’m hearing from you is do not let up, these people do listen. And we need to hear more of it.
– I absolutely think that’s true. I think people are listening. You know, and I think it depends. There’s variation, of course, across the U.S. where you live, how people think about some of these issues. But I think it doesn’t matter where you live, it’s still an important issue to bring forward. And I think we’ve seen just in the early days of the Trump administration that both Democratic and Republican representatives have listened. To some extent. Varying extends, to their constituents. Saying what’s important. This is something we talk about a lot in California as well. Because we feel like the coast and oceans in California are so incredibly important to Californians. And the millions of people that visit our state every year. It’s a 45 billion dollar economy. You know, the tourist economy. Along the coast and oceans. And we feel very proud of being able to stand up and say we’re gonna be an example for how we can stand strong. In this political environment. And underscore the importance of protecting these habitats and these resources.
– Okay, so we write in, we definitely do whatever we can to raise our voice. How else can we get involved in doing this? I mean, obviously boycotting companies that do unsustainable fishing maybe. Or moving away from petroleum dependency. Like how else can I as an individual person? Because people feel so small, right? How can I make a difference and know that it’s working?
– Right. That’s such a great question. And it’s certainly one we wrestle with all the time. I do think that consumer action can make a big difference on some of these issues. And we’ve already talked about some of them. Plastics is a huge area where consumer interest and concern and action can make a difference. And we’ve already seen that with the bag bans for example. And look how easy it is for all of us in California to bring our canvas bags to the grocery store now. We’re all trained. So I think that’s really important. I think, you mentioned unsustainable fishing. And that’s another one. There are some really great tools out there to help people educate themselves about what kind of fish is sustainable to eat. The Monterey Bay aquarium, if you go to their website, they have a great seafood guide that you can download. They update it regularly. I think they actually do regional ones now too. There’s a sushi guide that will guide you. You know, green, yellow, red. Best choice, caution, you know, don’t eat this. And that’s, those are really important tools because we eat a lot of seafood in this country. And a shocking percentage of it is actually caught in a way that’s either illegal or unreported. And a lot of that’s being actually, we import about 90% of our seafood. And a lot of that’s being imported. But we can you know, use our voices and our checkbooks to indicate what, our commitment to sustainable fishing.
– How do we know? Like if I’m at like TGI Friday’s or some dumb restaurant that doesn’t even live in this eco system. And I order the fish ’cause I’m trying to be healthier. How do I know it’s a healthy fish? How do I even, do I tell the, call over the manager and say hey, I wanna know what this is and I want you to let your boss know that I care.
– Right. This is a really tricky issue. Partly too because a lot of fish is marketed under lots of different names. So there are lot of people I know, a lot of people I work with who will ask, oh yeah, where was this caught? What is this fish? And you know, half the time the waiter doesn’t know. So I actually really do rely on that Monterey Bay aquarium seafood guide. And there’s some other ones that are similar to that. Because there’s constantly new information. And then the other thing I do is I will educate myself about a few kinds of fish that I feel pretty good about eating. So for example, salmon caught in Alaska. I feel pretty good about. Shrimp that comes from a different part of the world, I’m not so sure. You know, so when I’m eating out, if I’m not at the grocery store, I can maybe ask my fish monger more about you know, where these species have come from. I might stick to that sort of shorter list of things to order. ‘Cause it makes me more comfortable.
– Yeah, yeah, that makes sense. So what’s the NRDC working on now in the ocean and how can my listeners support this? And just jump in. Give us a couple action items to just literally jump in. We can put in some links, some URLs. And I’m just gonna get everyone kind of get involved immediately instead of just listening like, just do something, sign something, whatever.
– Oh, that’s so fantastic. I think if you go to NRDC.org and click over to our oceans program, there should be some great action items there. In sort of broad brush, we are concerned about a lot of these big threats to the ocean, we’re certainly concerned about changing climate, we’re concerned about, we wanna see an end to over fishing. We wanna defend against these destructive practices like oil drilling. And we’re also working very hard to promote protections for specific species and places. And so, on the federal level, what that means is we are working very hard to defend our federal, our national, sustainable fishing law. It’s got a long name, it’s called the Magnuson Stevens act. And there is a bad bill in Congress right now that seeks to undermine that act. This is a model law that other countries look at. It helped us turn around over fishing in this country. By setting limits on how many fish you can catch. And by setting targets to what they call rebuild stocks that were depleted. And it’s been working extremely well since 1976. And it’s under threat right now. So you know, yes you can call your congressman and say, we wanna see that fishing act, that Magnuson Stevens act stay strong. So that’s one really great thing people can do. There are other threats that we’re just tracking right now, we’re very concerned about any attempts to open up off shore drilling. In areas that have been protected already. And partly ’cause we wanna see those habitats protected. But also because we really believe you know, we need to be moving towards renewable energy. So that’s something to track and watch. If there are efforts to try to expand oil drilling, that would be a great place to step up and speak out against that. I’m trying to think what I’ve missed here. Marine protected areas. I don’t know if I have a specific action for folks on that. But I can say that this is, one of the things that scientists are really looking at as a critical way to protect the ocean. So if you think about it, about 4% of underwater habitats protected right now. Globally. We have about 15% of terrestrial habitats that are protected in national parks and that sort of thing. And so scientists are very eager to increase that amount of protection. So I think one thing you can do pretty easily is just, I know this sounds silly, but it’s important. Learn about the ocean, share that enthusiasm with other people. And look for opportunities you know, in your community to support efforts to protect ocean habitats.
– Love that. And then one thing I’d add to that is go to the Monterey Bay website, we’ll put a link here. Find out what fish is safest and healthiest to eat and choose to consume and spend your money with the fisheries that are doing the right work and are doing sustainable fishing. You could basically you know, choke out companies that are doing the wrong thing by stopping purchases of their products. And I think that’s a very powerful lever as well.
– Yes, I’m so glad you brought that up. I think that’s a really easy action. And I don’t know if they still do, but they used to have this in a little wallet size card. And I literally have it in my wallet and I pull it out and take a look at it. And they have an app too. So these are great ways to do it. And you know, like I said, I just pick a few that I know. So when I’m in a restaurant I can say yes, if it’s this kind, if it’s, you know, this fish from this area, I feel good about it. Yeah, and I think too, that’s not just a way to support the oceans, but it’s a way to support the fishermen that are doing it right. Because we do have strong fishing laws in California, in the U.S., in a lot of U.S. states. And you know, for those fishermen that comply with those laws, you know, it’s unfair to think that other fish that were caught in ways that are much less sustainable are competing, they’re cheaper. So it’s great to be able to support that sustainability.
– Yeah, and if you say you value the ocean, then you have to value the work that the good guys are doing to support healthy ocean. And so again, every time you buy fish, it’s up to you to help either support that reality or just be part of the problem.
– Yeah, for sure. Yeah, and I was just gonna say too I would encourage your listeners to come to NRDC.org as well. You know, these are all evolving issues. And you know, we continue to sort of stay at the forefront and really try to keep our members up to date. On how things are going. And where we need your help. So we would be thrilled to have people come to our website and see how they can get involved that way too.
– Yes, done. Please do so. And continue to do so. Elizabeth, this has been very educational for me. I’m always kind of looking at where the blind spots are in my own life. And where I can be better. And so every single one of us has a responsibility. These oceans are filled with life. And they’re big part of the eco system that we don’t see that supports life. And obviously seeking carbon for us. A little too much right now. So producing less might help them. But you know, these are issues that are very pertinent to future of our species. And all life. So it’s a big deal. I wanna thank you for being here. Keep up the good work. Any way we can support you, I’m in. And if you’re listening right now, go directly to NRDC.org. And find an issue that matters to you. And weigh in, get involved, start supporting the initiatives that make sense to you, support ’em all if you can. And think about what you’re buying. What kind of fish you’re buying. And make that a different choice. Make one choice every single day for a better planet. And then just build that habit and keep building on that. And you’ll start to see the world change very rapidly. We can do this, we can do this together. Elizabeth, thank you so much for being here.
– Thank you very much, Pedram. It was really a pleasure.