Shore Buddies Ocean Hero of the Week: Marc Ward
Hi again ocean lovers!
I’m Stephen Seagull, and I’m back with Stephen’s Interview Corner! Oh man, do I have a turtley great person to introduce you to! Marc Ward is one of the greatest protectors of my dear friend, Shelly the Sea Turtle. Through his adventures, he developed quite a passion for marine life in realizing just how important they are to our oceans. His love for turtles drove him to help create Sea Turtles Forever, a program that dedicated everything they had to protecting sea turtles from all the problems they face. But he didn’t stop there…
- Hello, I’m Stephen Seagull, and I’m from the beach! What’s your name and where are you from?
I am Marc W. Ward and I am from Seaside, Oregon.
2. How long have you been passionate about Ocean Protection?
I did my first ocean environmental work in 1976.
3. Ocean Protection is a pretty big deal to me and my friends since we live at the ocean. What event happened in your life that made you want to pursue Ocean Protection?
I was asked to run a marine turtle monitoring operation in Costa Rica which started off my research phase of marine reptiles. The first thing we had to do was protect the beach from many poachers, and restore a devastated nesting habitat. As I got further into my research I became aware of the connectivity of marine life and the importance of habitat to the sustainability of species. I learned that if we want to sustain the oceans we would have to work very hard to protect the marine habitat that is vital to sustaining our oceans health.
4. What specific cause are you a part of/did you create? Tell us about what it accomplishes.
I co-founded an organization called Sea Turtles Forever. I created a modern strategy for confronting the poachers and monitoring the nesting activity of marine turtles. We started in an area of Costa Rica that was very rural and isolated and had been suffering a 100% loss of marine turtles eggs to poaching and sale on the black market. Many adult females nesting turtles were also butchered for meat sold on the black market or consumed by locals and also people who came to the area to poach. We have had to battle the poachers for control of the beach for 20 years and still to this day battle the poachers every night. If our team is not on the beach every single egg is taken. We reduced the loss of eggs from poaching to approx. 5% and have hatched out hundreds of thousands of eggs that would have been sold on the black market. After gaining control over the beach and fighting the poachers I did a lot of research on habitat and that led to our understanding that marine plastic was arguably the greatest threat to the survival of our marine turtles. This research included co-authoring a paper with Tokyo University of Agriculture and Technology on the toxicity of marine plastics. We identified approx. 200 toxic chemicals that are absorbed by marine micro plastic at sea in the research. We took samples from 141 sites in 44 countries and came up with consistent contamination in all samples. Particularly PCBs but a whole range of other toxic chemicals that are also locked into the marine micro plastic at over one million times normal background levels.I also did some research with Lance Ferris of Australia on ingestion of plastics by Sea Turtles and found that all sea turtle were consuming this toxic plastic. As time went on and more research came out from other organizations it was clear that ALL ocean life was threatened by the millions of tons of marine micro plastic circulating in all oceans. I was determined to do something about this threat. With no budget to work with on that issue I invested my own resource and started research on landfall density and ways to filter out the micro plastics from the marine environment, knowing that our only hope for the ocean was to remove as much of this material as possible. I worked for years and finally developed and patented a system that would remove micro plastic down to approx. 100 microns from the beach environment. I knew we had to produce these Static Charge Filtration screens and get them out on a global level to have the largest possible impact, to remove the most micro plastic we could from the ocean environment. We have shipped this system all over the world, from Australia to England and Portugal, from Canada to the Galapagos Islands all up and down the West and East Coast of America, the Gulf Coast and the Great Lakes. I also created a team called the STF/Blue Wave that runs filtration for 40+ days per year in Oregon during the dry season and filters miles of coastline pulling thousands of pounds of marine micro plastic from the marine environment every year for the last 9 years. This STF/Blue Wave Team also runs many educational events that teach school kids about the threat our oceans, and therefore ourselves, face from this issue. We can hatch out millions of sea turtles but releasing them into a devastated ocean environment has the potential to nullify all our hard work, and also destroy the entire marine food web. I created a movement, the Blue Wave and now thousands of people are running filtration around the globe, and it is growing everyday. You can see a film on the Sea Turtles Forever website --- "Filtering a Plastic Ocean" that illustrates what we are doing. Sea Turtles Forever is not just a name, it is a concept, a philosophy of stewardship. If we want to have our ocean life forever we will certainly have to work very hard for the health of our oceans.
5. I know I’ve been flying around longer than you (we don’t have to give actual numbers of how old I am) but what do you believe is the state of our oceans today versus when you started pursuing ocean protection?
Our oceans are now devastated. When I first saw an issue back in 1976 and decided to take action we did not even see micro plastic anywhere on the beach. I was concerned with abandoned fishing gear and other large marine debris items, not things that where toxic and being ingested by plankton, the base of our marine food web. Now we have giant waves of micro plastic making landfall on beaches all over the world. Imagine being in a blizzard -- of micro plastic, that is what the ocean is like. Toxic particles in massive clouds infiltrating our ocean food web. This material looks like food to many marine organisms and they are all consuming micro plastic either directly or in the fish and other food they eat. Yes even marine plankton are ingesting the 100 micron sized particles because they look like algae. Our oceans a thousand times worse off than when I started my work. This is a scourge of biblical proportions that we have got to fight -- for our lives. Our oceans produce approx. 70% of the oxygen we breath, if we destroy the marine food web we will all suffocate, if we don't starve first.
6. What tip do you have for everyone to help keep plastics out of the ocean?
I try not to do this lecture to kids, it is horrifying. I try to teach that HOW YOU SHOP can save us or destroy us. We have got to stop the inflow of plastic to the oceans. Estimates are that 80 million tons of plastic are still entering the ocean every year, how long can an ecosystem withstand that insult. We have got to move away from buying plastic packaging. Buy milk and juice in waxed cardboard, by maple syrup etc. in glass containers, never accept a single use plastic bag, stop using plastic straws( we find thousands in the beach), anything you can do to not buy plastic of any form is our only hope of saving the oceans. REFUSE plastic ----the recycling is an illusion, only a very small percentage of plastic is ever recycled. STOP using plastic if at all possible.
7. It’s been so great interviewing with you. I have one last question for you. What would you tell someone who is struggling to stand up for a cause they are passionate about?
Be brave, be determined, gather knowledge it is power, collaborate with others we are strong together. Find like minded people and be a team, alone we are weak together we are a mountain. Don't back down because every little bit helps and we are fighting for the existence of the only Blue Planet, this is our only habitat and the future of the human race depends on us at this time more than any other time in the history of mankind.
For more information about Marc Ward and his passion for the ocean, visit https://www.seaturtlesforever.org or https://www.facebook.com/SeaTurtlesForever/
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