The Stream, February 24: UN Campaign Aims To Curb Microplastics And Cut Ocean Pollution

The Global Rundown

A global United Nations campaign seeks a drastic reduction in the amount of plastic in the oceans, including the plastic microbeads washed down drains. The Dakota Access oil pipeline is nearly complete after months of opposition over water concerns in North Dakota. Researchers in England warn a virus meant to kill invasive carp in Australia’s Murray-Darling River system could put other fish at risk. A new government plan to boost water quality ratings in New Zealand may cut standards to do so. U.S. Senate legislation meant to streamline ballast water rules would put the Great Lakes and other waterways at risk from invasive species, according to state attorneys general. For the first time in two decades, water managers opened the top gates at California’s largest reservoir to test them for future water releases.

“It is past time that we tackle the plastic problem that blights our oceans. Plastic pollution is surfing onto Indonesian beaches, settling onto the ocean floor at the North Pole, and rising through the food chain onto our dinner tables. We’ve stood by too long as the problem has gotten worse. It must stop.” –Erik Solheim, executive director of the United Nations Environment Programme, after UNEP launched its #CleanSeas campaign Thursday. The campaign aims to curb the estimated 8 million metric tons of plastic that makes its way into oceans each year from sources including microplastics — the tiny plastic beads used in personal hygiene products that wash through wastewater systems into waterways. (UNEP)

By The Numbers

99 percent Proportion of the Dakota Access oil pipeline that is complete, according to the company building it. A protest camp in North Dakota was cleared this week after months of demonstrations against the line, which opponents fear could contaminate water supplies. Reuters

1,982 cubic meters per second Rate of water spilled from Lake Shasta, California’s largest reservoir, during a 15-minute test of the dam’s top gates in preparation for snowmelt later this spring. It was the first time the gates were opened in 20 years. Los Angeles Times

In context: Learn how water releases earlier this month damaged an emergency spillway at the Oroville Dam.

Science, Studies, And Reports

Australia’s plan to release a herpes virus into the Murray-Darling River Basin to kill invasive carp could pose dangers to wild and farmed fish, according to a letter published by researchers at the University of East Anglia in England. Scientists and officials in Australia, however, argue the virus already exists in other countries without attacking other species and say the carp pose an imminent threat to biodiversity. Guardian

In context: Learn more about Australia’s “Carpageddon” plan.

On The Radar

Attorneys general for 10 states, including the Great Lakes states of Illinois, Michigan, and New York, are calling on the U.S. Senate to reject ballast water legislation they say will weaken protections against aquatic invasive species. Ballast water discharged by ships has historically introduced damaging species, including zebra mussels, to the Great Lakes and other U.S. waterways. Detroit Free Press

New Zealand announced plans this week to make 90 percent of its waterways swimmable by 2040, a goal that it estimates will cost $2 billion. Critics, however, said the plan also lowers the standard for what the government considers “swimmable” water quality. Radio New Zealand