Newport Aquarium Joins National Push to Take #FirstStep to Cut Plastic Pollution

Twenty-two top aquariums across the United States – Including Newport Aquarium – have already eliminated 5 million straws in their coordinated campaign to reduce sources of plastic pollution. Now they’re upping their game by encouraging individuals, businesses and cities around the country to cut back on single-use plastic—starting with plastic straws—by Earth Day 2019.

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Take the first step by pledging to skip plastic straws. Your last straw is the #FirstStep to a plastic-free ocean. Visit: pledge.ourhands.org.

Banding together in a joint #FirstStep to plastic-free waters, the aquariums seek commitments from 500 more businesses, pledges from individuals, and policy action by municipalities, all to reduce a growing source of single-use plastic waste that harms ocean and freshwater wildlife around the world.

The campaign will kick off during #NoStrawNovember, a nationwide movement asking people who don’t need them to refuse plastic straws for 30 days.

“Cutting back on plastic straws doesn’t solve the problem, but it’s an important first step,” said Eric Rose, Newport Aquarium Executive Director. “It gets people thinking and talking about ways they can reduce their reliance on single-use plastic items—and encourages the innovation of ocean-friendly alternatives.”First Step_reef 2

The #FirstStep campaign includes:

  • Recruiting 500 new businesses to partner with aquariums across the country by committing to offer straws only on request, for a total of 1,000 businesses committed by Earth Day 2019
  • An online pledge site (ourhands.org/) where individuals can commit to make the last straw their first step to plastic-free waters
  • Initiatives by partner aquariums to inspire cities in their regions to pass straws-on-request ordinances and other local measures to reduce single-use plastic
  • An opportunity for individuals to get tips via text message on ways to cut back on single-use plastic in their daily lives, by texting SEATURTLE to 49767

Since the 2017 launch of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), 22 partner aquariums in 17 states – located on the coasts and in the heartland – have eliminated more than 5 million straws a year, stopped using plastic shopping bags, and have committed to significantly reduce or eliminate plastic beverage bottles by 2020.  Nearly 500 businesses—including United Airlines, the Chicago White Sox, Dignity Health hospitals and Farmer Brothers Coffee—have made plastic-reduction commitments in collaboration with ACP aquariums.Scott ioh-shark

Municipalities in aquarium communities, and California on a statewide basis, have enacted laws either banning single-use plastic from many foodservice operations or requiring businesses to offer plastic straws only when customers request them. ACP partner aquariums are supporting these efforts in a variety of ways.

“There’s new scientific evidence, almost on a weekly basis, about the ways that plastic pollution is harming marine and aquatic wildlife,” said Monterey Bay Aquarium Executive Director Julie Packard. “I find it so encouraging that people are responding quickly to the threat—by changing their habits, and asking businesses and governments to step up and take action.”

“The health of our lakes and rivers is important not only to the wildlife that live there – they are a recreation and economic resource for us all,” said Bridget Coughlin, president and CEO of Chicago’s Shedd Aquarium. “Beyond inspiring the public to take action, it’s our duty to empower businesses and community leaders to raise the issue of plastic pollution taking place in both freshwater and marine habitats, lead by example and make long-lasting, impactful change.”

“A sea change is underway, and people want to do their part to ensure the future of our ocean planet,” said National Aquarium President and Chief Executive Officer John Racanelli. “All 22 of the aquariums that make up the ACP are committed to reducing single-use plastics, and it is now our hope to inspire and serve as a model for other organizations and companies as well as individuals. The reality is that if everyone does their part, we can make a meaningful impact.”

ACP’s initiative has already expanded globally. Its work sparked the European Commission and United Nations Environment Program – with support from five international partners, including ACP – to announce a commitment by European Union Commissioner for Environment, Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Karmenu Vella at the 5th international “Our Ocean” conference October 29-30 in Bali, Indonesia to coordinate a global coalition of 200 aquariums by 2019 to raise public awareness about plastic pollution.FirstStep_text_penguins

For more information about the #FirstStep campaign or to take the pledge, please visit pledge.ourhands.org/.

 

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About the Aquarium Conservation Partnership

The Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP) is a collaboration of 22 U.S. public aquariums in 17 states, all committed to advancing conservation of the world’s ocean, lakes, and rivers through consumer engagement, business leadership, and policy changes.  ACP was founded by Shedd Aquarium in Chicago, Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, and National Aquarium in Baltimore, in collaboration with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. More information at pledge.ourhands.org/.

Join the #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge

By: Ric Urban, Senior Biologist

NEWPORT, Ky. — Mermaids are ambassadors for our marine environments and freshwater ecosystems. As they make their way to Newport Aquarium from around the world this week, it is the perfect time to kick-off our #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge. These mythical creatures will be swimming with their freshwater fish friends in the Amazon Tunnel through October 15. They’ll delight guests and share their conservation stories in daily meet-and-greets.

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Mermaid Calliope took a break along the banks of Ohio River. The Ohio River is one of the largest watersheds in our region.

The #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge is one of the ways we bring awareness to the plastics we use every day and how we can work to reduce our dependency of plastics. The mermaids need us! Our oceans need us! Our rivers need us! Mermaids don’t like swimming with plastics.

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Seahorses don’t like swimming with plastic straws, and neither do mermaids.

Newport Aquarium is part of the Aquarium Conservation Partners (ACP) which is a first-of-its-kind collaboration created to increase the collective impact of aquariums on ocean and freshwater conservation. The ACP was founded by Monterey Bay Aquarium, National Aquarium, and Shedd Aquarium. These three major aquariums were joined by Newport Aquarium and 14 other aquariums throughout North America to make a change. Newport Aquarium and its ACP partners are committed to eliminating all plastic straws and single-use bags, and significantly reduce or eliminate plastic beverage bottles by 2020. We first told you about the In Our Hands campaign here on the blog, back in the summer.

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In Our Hands is a consumer campaign of the Aquarium Conservation Partnership (ACP), a coalition of 19 U.S. aquariums taking action together to advance ocean and freshwater conservation.

When you visit Newport Aquarium to see the mermaids, you can share your stories with them in Shark Ray Bay Theater and tell them how you are ‘kicking the plastic’ habit. You can also see them swimming in the Amazon Tunnel, take a selfie with your refillable water bottle and the mermaid!

I have had some time to talk to the mermaids and hear their stories of where they live and the impact of plastic pollution on their underwater environments. Mermaid Coral is the protector of the coral reefs.

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Mermaid Coral is the protector of the coral reefs.

While talking with her, I discovered the Great Barrier Reef and other coral reefs around the world are dying. The oceans are fun places to swim. Mermaid Coral and her mermaid sisters are entertained by us humans as we jump and play in the sun on the beach. A big problem for the merfolk is we use sunscreens that wash off in the water and harm the coral reefs. Mermaid Coral would like us to start using biodegradable sunscreens that will still protect us but not harm the reefs and the fishes that swim in the oceans.

Mermaid Calliope

Mermaid Calliope is from the Caribbean and does not like plastics. You can’t swim with her if you use plastics.

Mermaid Calliope is from the Caribbean and does not like plastics. You can’t swim with her if you use plastics. She loves metal re-usable straws. They get nice and cold and make her sweet tea “yummy.” Plastic straws are in the Top 10 of plastic debris found on the beaches and in the oceans. Many seabirds and mammals have ingested plastic straws that have harmed them.

Ninety percent of all the trash floating in the oceans is made of plastics. The #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge is our way as leaders and part of the ACP initiatives to reduce sources of plastic pollution in the ocean and freshwater ecosystems.  Our “plastic pollution” problem is not just an ocean problem or a freshwater problem.  Plastic Pollution starts as a land problem!

Join us in the #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge and tag us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, to show how you are reducing your dependency on plastics. Everyone that shares with us will be registered for a raffle to win a “Plastic Free” Newport Aquarium package and a tour of the Newport Aquarium by yours truly.

Let’s take the #SaveTheMermaidsChallenge Together!