Imagine there’s no plastic

Capt. Bill Brooker, of Sara-Bay Sailing School and Charter, Longboat Key, is participating in Operation Plastic Pollution Purge this summer. - Cindy Lane | Sun

Coast Lines logo - borderWhen Capt. Bill Brooker takes the Chomsky out on Sarasota Bay for a lesson or a charter, he watches the clouds for rain. He watches the sails for wind. And he watches the water for trash, particularly plastic trash.

It may take an extra tack or two, but going after plastic bottles, straws and other flotsam and jetsam is all part of being a good sailor, according to the sailing instructor and former psychologist, who sails out of Sara-Bay Sailing School and Charter, 4134 Gulf of Mexico Drive, Longboat Key.

Brooker is joining the American Sailing Association (ASA) in launching “Operation Plastic Pollution Purge” to encourage boaters to clean up trash from waterways.

The public service campaign aims to raise awareness of plastic pollution to encourage people to recycle and properly dispose of plastic.

All summer, the association is asking boaters to bring a trash bag onboard and pick up any garbage they see, whether it’s on the water’s edge or in the water.

A cormorant perches on a channel marker in Sarasota Bay. Birds can become fatally entangled in plastic fishing line. – Cindy Lane | Sun

Boaters can post photos of themselves and their crews picking up trash on the ASA Facebook page.

“Plastic pollution is not an ocean, river, lake or stream problem, it’s a people problem,” said Lenny Shabes, CEO and founder of the ASA, the world’s largest sailing organization and America’s sail education authority.

“We must do our part to discourage everyone from trashing our waterways with plastic bottles, bags, cups, utensils and plates,” he said. “If we all do our part, we can make a difference by raising awareness to help stop this tidal wave of plastic threatening all of us.”

Plastic fishing line is one of the biggest sources of plastic pollution and wildlife entanglement and strangulation, Brooker said, despite recycling stations stationed at several area piers and boat ramps.

Monofilament fishing line can stay in the water for 600 years, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, which suggests that anglers can make their own onboard fishing line storage bins by cutting an “X” in the lid of a tennis ball container or coffee can to keep it from blowing overboard.

But most plastic trash in the water comes from land, not boats, Brooker said, such as plastic bags that people take to the breezy beach, and which sea turtles mistake for yummy jellyfish.

According to a University of Georgia study, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste blows into the ocean each year, the equivalent of five grocery bags of plastic trash sitting on every foot of coastline around the world, according to the ASA.

– Cindy Lane | Sun

It’s one of several reasons for the campaign, including these:

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch in the Pacific Ocean between Hawaii and California, one of five plastic islands worldwide, has grown to twice the size of Texas.
  • One million seabirds die annually from getting tangled in and/or eating plastic.
  • One hundred marine mammals die annually from getting tangled in and/or eating plastic.
  • S. residents use almost one plastic bag each, every day, compared to Denmark residents who each use an average of four plastic bags a year.
  • Americans each throw out an average of 10 plastic bags every week.
  • The plastic problem is growing at such a rapid pace it’s the equivalent of dumping one New York City garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute of every day.

For more information, visit ASA.

Visit Capt. Brooker or call him at 941-914-5132.

And please take the time to pick up plastic trash.