“Plastic bags choke marine life and should be phased out globally” stated a United Nations top official speaking at the launch of the report Marine Litter: A Global Challenge. Project AWARE Foundation divers and water enthusiasts regularly clean underwater environments to address the issue and will take the plunge on International Cleanup Day this September in more than 100 countries...

With unique access to the underwater world, scuba divers can help remove debris underwater, raise awareness and drive positive change.

Achim Steiner, Head of the UN Environment Program, said that there was "zero justification" for manufacturing plastic bags anywhere. The UN report details the devastating impact of plastics in our ocean affecting every level of the marine food chain.

Project AWARE supports the movement to cut plastic bag consumption and curb catastrophic levels of plastic entering our ocean. With a worldwide push to monitor marine debris, Project AWARE calls upon the global dive community to make sure their data counts this September.

In partnership with the Ocean Conservancy Project AWARE coordinates the underwater portion of this event making it the largest volunteer effort of its kind. All data collected by Project AWARE volunteers on International Cleanup Day will once again contribute to the compelling Global Marine Debris Index prepared by Ocean Conservancy. In the 2008 Index, a reported 1.4 million plastic bags were collected on one day.

As the amount of marine rubbish continues to increase Project AWARE Foundation calls for renewed community action. “This is your chance to make a difference in your community and your local dive site and contribute to reducing debris by collecting important information.” said Project AWARE Foundation Director, Jenny Miller Garmendia.

“Better data means better decision making. Most divers recognize the importance of data collection to drive positive change for our oceans. But there is more that we can do. 65 per cent of cleanup coordinators returned their data in 2008 so Project AWARE urges all divers to go online to be included in the Marine Debris Index going forward,” said Project AWARE Foundation Director, Jenny Miller Garmendia.

With a 16 year track record of spearheading underwater and beach cleanups Project AWARE inspires thousand of divers to be ambassadors for the underwater world. Now Project AWARE’s data collection efforts are recognized by the United Nations but a continued drive for strong consistent data is the key to help illuminate the underwater issues related to marine debris.

2008 Cleanup Facts and Figures:

- The plastic bag ranks number two in the list of Top Ten Marine Debris items
- 11,070 nappies were collected in the Philippines
- 397,231 food wrappers in the USA
- 10,338 cigarette butts in Bangladesh
- 2,166 plastic bottles in Fiji
- 16,763 plastic food containers in Thailand and 10,270 plastic bags in Spain

Project AWARE Foundation, a registered non profit organisation, works in direct partnership with divers and water enthusiasts to conserve underwater environments through education, advocacy and action. To get involved in environmental activities and make a lasting difference visit www.projectaware.org.

Source: www.projectaware.org

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