Improving Ocean Health Starts on Land

Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas Rhode Island Project Launch with Clean Ocean Access and 11th Hour Racing.

NEWPORT, RI – On Friday, December 7th U.S. Senators Sheldon Whitehouse and Jack Reed and DEM Director, Janet Coit, gave remarks at the launch event of an innovative multi-year project spearheaded by Clean Ocean Access, a nonprofit organization based on Aquidneck Island. Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas Rhode Island is a two-year long initiative funded by 11th Hour Racing that aims to inspire long-lasting environmentally responsible behavior by tackling ocean pollution at its root: on land.

“The marine debris epidemic is a solvable problem, and from our experience, people absolutely want to see ocean pollution become a problem of the past,” says Dave McLaughlin, executive director of Clean Ocean Access. “Restoring and improving ocean health starts with the decisions we make on land.”

Clean Ocean Access will lead Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI, bringing together composting efforts across the state in partnership with existing food-waste-diversion groups: The Compost Plant, Rhodeside Revival and the Aquidneck Community Table. The three partners serve as the boots-on-the-ground team that will manage all commercial and residential composting collection and processing with an initial focus on Aquidneck Island.

Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI includes three composting programs:

  1. A pilot business composting program for 10 businesses in downtown Newport;
  2. A residential program for households on Aquidneck Island; and
  3. An educational pilot program, “Yes, In My Back Yard (YIMBY),” for backyard composting.Grant funding from 11th Hour Racing allows Clean Ocean Access to subsidize the composting programs and offer discounted rates to the first round of customers who sign up through Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI. The initiative brings together diverse stakeholders that include non-profit organizations, academia, government, local businesses, and industry with the hope of expanding an integrated materials management initiative throughout the State of Rhode Island. 

“What we do on land and in our every day lives affects ocean health,” said RI DEM Director, Janet Coit, citing that 100,000 tons of food waste enters the Central landfill each year. “With Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI we have an example of people seizing their own destinies, being responsible and doing it at a local level.”

Plastic makes up 10-15% of the material entering Rhode Island’s landfill. Organic waste and debris makes up another 30-35%, and the Johnston landfill is expected to reach capacity by 2034, according to a recent report published by RI Resource Recovery Corporation. With the potential to divert nearly 50% of the materials entering the landfill, integrated recycling and composting efforts could double the landfill’s lifetime through 2049 and mitigate costly expenses associated with out-of-state tipping fees.

“There’s a real spirit of bipartisanship around oceans,” said U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, speaking of the work being done at the national level to tackle plastic pollution and marine debris. He emphasized the critical role local projects like Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI play to spark national urgency around the problem of ocean pollution.

“Marine debris can harm marine life impact, boating safety, hinder tourism and other coastal industries, as well as threaten human health,” emphasized U.S. Senator Jack Reed, who also spoke of the success of the Southeast New England Coastal Watershed Restoration Program started in Rhode Island in 2012. “I am very proud to see Rhode Island leading the way on this issue.”

By encouraging people to think critically about their waste footprints, Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI aims to spark long-lasting behavior change that empowers people to reevaluate the need for low-and-no value materials entering the landfill, or worse, polluting our ocean.

“Every day organic waste is disposed of in the landfill where it generates greenhouse gases that warm our planet and are detrimental to ocean health” said Michelle Carnevale, Program Manager at 11th Hour Racing. Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI is a wonderful initiative that allows the community to come together and collaborate on an effective, and simple, solution. 11th Hour Racing is proud to support this project that promotes systemic change through individual and collective action.”

For more information about Healthy Soils, Healthy Seas RI, and to learn how you can join the first wave of participants turning the tide on ocean pollution visit: http://www.cleanoceanaccess.org/hshsri/.

# # #

About Clean Ocean Access: Since 2006 our mission is action today so future generations can enjoy ocean activities, with an exclusive focus on Aquidneck Island. Living on Aquidneck Island defines a coastally inspired life; so our cause of working for clean beaches, healthy oceans, safe swimming water, and public access of the shoreline is what we do, all year long. We are a tax-exempt not-for-profit organization, learn more at www.cleanoceanaccess.org.

About 11th Hour Racing: 11th Hour Racing establishes strategic partnerships within the sailing and maritime communities to promote collaborative, systemic change benefitting the health of our ocean – one degree at a time. Since 2010, 11th Hour Racing has been harnessing the power of sport with an innovative and comprehensive approach through three primary areas of engagement: Partners, Grantees, and Ambassadors. Learn more at www.11thhourracing.org.

About The Compost Plant: The Compost Plant will produce significant quantities of high-quality compost for the retail and wholesale marketplace in southern New England, building a unique Rhode Island brand that capitalizes on the surging interest in locally and organically-produced food. Learn more at www.compostplant.com.

About Aquidneck Community Table: Aquidneck Community Table (ACT) combines civic conversation, local entrepreneurship, institutional partnerships, and digging in the dirt with the principles of an equitable food system for all on Aquidneck Island. After successfully bringing three related groups under one organizational umbrella in 2016, ACT uses that collective energy to strengthen the island’s food system; to support the local economy and expand access to fresh healthy food for all; and to act directly to grow more food, preserve open space, and teach life skills. Learn more at www.aquidneckcommunitytable.org.

About Rhodeside Revival: Rhodeside Revival was born out of the idea of providing a service that brings the community together in an effort to reduce waste, while also creating quality compost for your garden and giving back to our schools, gardens and other institutions within the community. Rhodeside Revival operates a curbside composting program that brings your home’s food scraps away from the landfill, and into the garden. Learn more at www.rhodesiderevival.com.

Meet Our Communications & Marketing Intern: Eileen Dillon

Eileen Dillon is a junior at the University of Rhode Island pursuing her bachelor’s in marine affairs. She has served as COA’s communications and marketing intern since September 2018, helping to advance and communicate COA’s many programs, projects and initiatives to the general public.

Eileen has helped create and draft digital content for COA’s social media platforms and email marketing campaigns, interviewed and photographed volunteers at beach cleanups, and represented COA at public events. After graduation Eileen hopes to attend law school.

Outside of her classes and internship with COA, Eileen is a member of the Kappa Delta sorority at URI. She is a native of Ho-Ho-Kus, New Jersey, but spent many summers in Newport on Aquidneck Island. Eileen’s first memory of the ocean is of her father teaching her how to surf and falling off the surf board. Her surfing skills have since improved, though she prefers to relax at the beach and walk the Cliff Walk.

“I was motivated to intern with COA because I had previously known about all the work the group does on Aquidneck Island, and how people can directly see the impact of their efforts,” says Eileen. “I’m thankful for the opportunity to be a part of an organization that makes a difference in the community.

Meet Our Marine Debris Specialist: Max Kraimer

I hope to make a difference by using my science background to collect meaningful data that’s accessible to the local community and inspires change.

When he’s not analyzing microplastics and crunching data, Max Kraimer nurtures a love of the deep sea. His fearless curiosity and desire to explore the unknown leads him to the depths of the ocean floor, uncovering shipwrecks and underwater species.  

Max holds a Bachelor of Science in marine biology, with a minor on sustainability studies from Roger Williams University. Initially, his undergraduate studies focused on oyster farming and aquaculture. He soon learned about the pervasive problem of plastic pollution and marine debris in our coastal waters, a challenge that affects all trophic levels in the marine environment, from oysters to large mammals. 

His research focus at Roger Williams shifted to working with plastic pollution and identifying coastal locations along Narragansett Bay with the most marine debris accumulation. Today, Max is in the unique position to realize his undergraduate work and use his research to solve real-world problems.

Since joining the team in 2017 Max has worked to expand marina trash skimmer technology in Southeast New England by leveraging relationships with residents and local, state and federal officials.  He is responsible for maintaining and operating four marina trash skimmers located on Aquidneck Island, with prospects to expand the technology into other cities throughout New England.

“I hope to make a difference by using my science background to collect meaningful data that’s accessible to the local community and inspires change here and now,” says Max, who is also a PADI rescue diver certified in scientific diving by the American Academy of Underwater Sciences.

Before coming on board as a marine debris specialist, Max gained experience with COA as an environmental science intern for three consecutive semesters, performing inspections of the marina trash skimmers, leading the weekly AFTER5 cleanups and organizing events.

“The biggest threat to our oceans is the thought that someone else will save them,” says Max, referring to one of his favorite quotes by Marcus Eriksen of the 5 Gyres Institute. “That’s why I think it’s really important for us, as the next generation, to take action and ensure that our coastal waters are healthy so that we can enjoy ocean activities for years to come.”


Where did you grow up?

I was born and raised in West Hartford, a suburb smack in the middle of Connecticut. With the ocean roughly 50 miles away, I wasn’t readily at the beach and spent most of my weeknights and weekends playing sports with my friends.

What is your first memory of the ocean?

 During my childhood, I have an ingrained memory of not necessarily building sand castles but overall just playing in the sand.  Digging, throwing it at my sister and the occasional full body burial. The more recent memories I have are the relaxing times on simply laying on the beach catching some rays and letting the oceans energy absorb my unwanted stress.  

What is your favorite ocean activity?

Favorite ocean activity would have to be SCUBA diving. I have over 120 logged dives with a max depth of 103 ft.  I love swimming among the fish and observing underwater boat wrecks when the water is clear. Living in RI where the visibility rarely extends past 5ft I enjoy crawling on the seafloor observing the abundant life that Narragansett Bay has to offer.

What motivates you to work in ocean conservation?

 Through my studies I struggled to find exactly what topic to study in the vast field of marine biology.  With an ecosystem as diverse as the ocean, it was hard to really pick just one species to focus on. When I started to learn more about plastic pollution and marine debris it was easy to jump into the study because I realized that this a newly developed, understudied, topic that affects all trophic levels in our oceans.  I saw an opportunity in the ocean conservation field and I ran with it. While growing in this rapidly moving field I get more imbedded within ocean conservancy as a whole, and use it as a way to make personal sustainable changes on land.

 

COA Ocean Science Speaker Series

This month Clean Ocean Access is launching a monthly Ocean Science Speaker Series featuring scientists and researchers across disciplines, ranging from marine biology and engineering  to marine affairs and pharmaceutical sciences.

COA board president, Monica DeAngelis, kicks-off the first presentation on Tuesday, November 13th at the Newport Public Library from 6:00 to 7:00PM. Monica is a marine mammal biologist at the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. She holds a Bachelors of Science in biology from University of New Hampshire and a Masters of Science in biology from San Diego State University.

Marine animals use sound to navigate, communicate, find food, locate mates, and avoid predators. Noise is a recognized form of pollution and we’ve begun to recognize the threat it poses to marine life. Monica’s presentation will focus on the impacts of ocean noise on marine life, the sources of human-generated ocean noise, and what is being done and what you can do to address anthropogenic (man-made) ocean noise.

All presentations will be held at the Newport Public Library from 6:00 to 7:00PM.

2019 speaker dates coming soon!

Meet Our Program Coordinator: Jessie Frascotti

I want to help preserve these marine environments so that 50 or 100 years from now other kids and adults can experience the ocean the way I have.

If you ask Jessica Frascotti, she learned to swim before she could walk. Since she was a child Jessie has nurtured a deep love of the ocean, an appreciation that has become her lifelong passion. She’s been snorkeling in the U.S. Virgin Islands since the age of twelve, returning to dive in the same spots off the island of St. John each year.

However, in 2011 when she returned to her beloved island and its surrounding waters, she knew the reef was struggling. Jessie was troubled by how much the coral had changed and how few fish she saw when snorkeling.

It was on that trip to the U.S. Virgin Islands that Jessie realized she wanted to pursue a career in the field of ocean conservation. She later went on to study abroad at the School for Field Studies on South Caicos, a small island in Turks in Caicos, where she studied tropical marine ecology and researched the behavior of spotted eagle rays.

After graduating from Holy Cross in 2015 with a degree in marine biology and environmental science, Jessie returned to the island of St. John once again, where she began working as an eco-tour guide providing kayaking, snorkeling, paddle boarding and hiking tours. She also educated tourists about the native fish, plants, coral and wildlife species on the island and how visitors could help preserve these different species and ecosystems.

In addition to working as an eco-tour guide, Jessie also served as a first mate on several charter boats and helped design a coral restoration program. After two years working on St. John, Jessie returned to the United States where she began her career at Clean Ocean Access in January 2018.

As the program coordinator Jessie hopes to educate people on the challenges our ocean faces and be the voice of change in a community that can be a leader in sustainability. She brings five years of experience in marine and environmental science program management, as well as environmental science education. Jessie is a PADI certified divemaster and holds a United States Coast Guard 50 ton Captain’s license.


Where did you grow up?

I was born in Needham, MA and grew up spending summers in Martha’s Vineyard where my love for the ocean began.

What is your first memory of the ocean?

My parents had me in the ocean since I was a baby and I was no older than 5 or 6 when my mom and dad bought me my first snorkel mask. I remember immersing myself in the water and immediately seeing little fish including a small puffer fish at State Beach in Martha’s Vineyard. From that day on I spent most my summer days in the ocean.

What is your favorite ocean activity?

Scuba diving and snorkeling are my two favorite ocean activities. There is something so special and breathtaking when I get to swim with turtles, sharks, eagle rays, and all kinds of fish all in their natural environment.

What motivates you to work in ocean conservation?

I want to be able to share these experiences and the beautiful ecosystems we find in the ocean with future generations to come. In my lifetime of 25 years I have already seen drastic change in the spots I use to swim and snorkel as a child. I want to help preserve these marine environments, not only to help sustain life on the planet, but also so that 50 or 100  years from now, other kids and adults can  experience the ocean the way I have.