To the editor:

I strongly urge that fishermen and lobstermen be required to install GPS tracking devices on their working boats that are capable of locating deposits of discarded trash such as fishing nets, discarded lobster traps and lines and all forms of discarded plastics. The technology exists. It has been successfully used in the work of ocean conservation advocate Mary Crowley of Sausalito, California. She and her team have used these devices to locate and further remove hundreds of thousands of pounds of ocean trash caused by humans. This trash endangers the lives of fish and marine mammals. Crowley’s work has been focused in the Pacific Ocean, including waters off Hawaii.

If there are violent storms causing the loss of the gear used in fishing, the GPS equipment could locate the stuff later and people could remove it after storm conditions have subsided. Crowley has studied extensively the details of locating and removing ocean trash. Interestingly, she has been able to take recovered plastic trash and turn it over to artists who have created plastic sculptures. Other uses are possible.

Alternatives to plastics exist. It is time to switch from their use to natural products that serve the same function. I volunteered on Christmas morning serving Christmas meals to those who don’t get out. About 375 meals were served and delivered by volunteers to those in need. Plastic knives, forks and spoons were delivered with the meals. What a wonderful experience to be part of the serving and delivering of these meals. I asked about switching from plastic to bamboo or some other type of utensils to eat with. Cost was spoken of as a reason not to switch. Maybe donation requests are in order to get the environmentally better utensils. This may seem small, but focusing on specifics on a small level can lead to expanding efforts to reduce use of plastics. Sperm whales have been found dead because their stomachs are loaded with discarded plastics. Wax-coated paper containers have worked in the past for beverages instead of plastics. Glass bottles that can be returned also could replace plastic bottles. Plastic grocery bags have been outlawed at supermarkets.

Fishermen and lobstermen have had restrictions and regulations imposed on them, limiting how much they can catch commercially. Maybe these same commercial businessmen and women could use their vessels in several ways: Fish within the limits and then work to locate and remove ocean trash. For those who love to be out on the oceans, this is in reality another form of fishing. The costs of addressing the issues of ocean trash are far greater than the cost of non-plastic utensils to eat with instead of plastic knives, forks and spoons.

I challenge Gloucester citizens to be known for being visionary like Mary Crowley and other ocean conservancy organizations, and working hard to be leaders in solving the ocean trash problem that exists worldwide. I made a conscious decision in the 1980s to stop producing scrimshaw to sell. I loved that profession, but live whales became more important to me. I could have continued my profession working on plastic materials, but chose not to. I found other jobs that paid more than carving scrimshaw, not stimulating artistically. Much as I truly miss doing scrimshaw, I am thrilled to have been whale watching a number of times, and glad to learn that some whale populations have increased. They do not need to have a fate of dying prematurely by ingesting plastics discarded by humans.

Martha Bowen


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