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Environment Matters Audio Podcast

Environment Matters
EPA Region 3
Topic: National Oceans Month - June 2011
Size: : 6440k
Time: 06:52

Date: June 24, 2011

[Sound of ocean waves]

Bonnie Lomax: Hello, I'm Bonnie Lomax of EPA's Mid-Atlantic Region and welcome to Environment Matters, our series of environmental podcasts.

[Opening music]

It's officially summer and if you are like me, you may be thinking about a trip to the beach and taking a dip in the ocean. Well, June is National Oceans Month, and we are pleased to welcome today's guest, Sherilyn Morgan, an EPA environmental scientist.

Hello, Sherilyn.

Sherilyn Morgan: Hello, Bonnie and thank you for asking me to be part of EPA's Oceans podcast.

Bonnie Lomax: Sherilyn, what is the purpose of National Oceans Month?

Sherilyn Morgan: National Oceans month is dedicated to increasing awareness and appreciation of our oceans, coastal areas and the Great Lakes. On June 2 President Obama proclaimed June as National Oceans Month, stating that "we celebrate the value of oceans to American life and recognize the critical role they continue to play in our economic progress, national security, and natural heritage." The National Ocean Policy focuses on the threats these resources face and describes the initiatives in place to protect and ensure sustainability on a regional level.

Bonnie Lomax: Why are oceans so important?

Sherilyn Morgan: Oceans play a vital role in sustaining life on Earth, making up 71 percent of the Earth's surface and 97% of all its water. Also, oceans provide critical habitat to support marine life and many organisms that people all over the world rely on for consumption. In fact oceans support nearly 50% of all species on Earth. The oceans also have great economic value; in the United States, in fact, one of every six jobs is marine-related and over one-third of the Gross National Product originates in coastal areas. And of course, our oceans and coasts play a huge part in American recreation, providing places where families go for fun and relaxation. For these purposes, we must secure healthy waters for our present and future use because our oceans are presently stricken with pollution, overfishing and even climate change.

Bonnie Lomax: What are we doing to keep our Oceans healthy?

Sherilyn Morgan: At a national level, EPA is working with local, state and other federal agencies as part of the Inter-Agency Ocean Policy Task Force, to implement the first ever national policy for the stewardship of oceans, coasts, and our Great Lakes. This effort reinforces the work that EPA has been performing for nearly 40 years and specifically at the regional level, in our office we have been collecting coastal and ocean water quality data for over 20 years.

Bonnie Lomax: Sherilyn, why is it important to have a national policy?

Sherilyn Morgan: The national ocean policy outlines, in its nine priorities, the threats our oceans face and strategies to better support our economy and natural resources. This national policy will take a new approach to ocean protection, bringing together the resources of several regulatory agencies to develop a framework for observations, monitoring, and research. This, in turn, will provide natural resource decision-makers with a greater scientific certainty about the risks and benefits of their actions and how they affect other ocean uses. A national ocean policy will significantly advance our response to the long-term challenges of ocean sustainability and further enhance the many vital benefits we can derive from these resources.

Bonnie Lomax: I can see that will be very beneficial nationally, but what about here in the Mid-Atlantic Region? What is EPA doing here?

Sherilyn Morgan: In the Mid-Atlantic region, EPA annually monitors the health of the coastal and ocean environments through sediment and water quality sampling, and even through aerial surveillance. The data and information collected are used to base decisions and recommendations for such activities as ocean disposal of material dredged from navigational channels in our region.
In addition to our annual monitoring, EPA scientists and volunteers from State agencies help to survey mid-Atlantic waters for marine debris, which is an emerging problem affecting our coasts and oceans. On EPA's Oceans Survey Vessel, the Bold, we collaborate with local and state agencies to perform both regulatory activities and issues of increased concern.

Bonnie Lomax: It's really fascinating to see that EPA is doing so much here. But I want to go back to marine debris. What exactly is that?

Sherilyn Morgan: Marine debris, Bonnie, is basically trash - -any man-made solid material that enters the ocean either directly or indirectly. When animals consume or become entangled in marine debris, it can cause them to become ill, suffocate, or even starve. For example, sea turtles have been known to swallow clear plastic bags which look like jelly fish in the marine environment. Marine debris can also wash up on beaches, causing a health and safety hazard, and making beaches unfit for us to enjoy.

Bonnie Lomax: So how is EPA addressing marine debris?

Sherilyn Morgan: Well, marine debris is a national priority and the EPA, partnering with NOAA--the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration--and state agencies, has conducted numerous studies to identify the different types and sources of marine debris. We are also focusing on controlling specific sources such as street litter, storm water runoff, and industrial wastewater as well as debris from fishing and ocean vessels.

Bonnie Lomax: Well, how can our listeners help control marine debris?

Sherilyn Morgan: We can all do a great deal to control marine debris. One of the easiest is to practice recycling and proper disposal. We can do this at home, at the beach, or on a boat, which can significantly reduce the amount of marine debris reaching oceans and coastal waters. To better protect our oceans, listeners can let their voices be heard during the national ocean policy's 30-day comment period by providing comments directly to www.whitehouse.gov until July 2nd. You can also begin or continue to reduce your carbon footprint, recycle and properly dispose of waste and hazardous materials that could ultimately impact our aquatic resources. You can also support your local organizations on green initiatives. We hope that you continue to visit the EPA website at www.epa.gov as a resource for ways to help. And, lastly, spread the word to family and friends on how to improve their lives and our resources for present and future generations.

[Closing music]

Bonnie Lomax: Well, that does seem easy enough for everyone to become involved. Thanks, Sherilyn. And to our listeners, thank you for tuning into Environment Matters. 

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