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Sanctuary Friends Foundation

In this Issue:

News & Notes
August 2009

Sanctuary Friends Foundation

  Our Amazing Ocean

Perils of Plastic Bags in the Ocean

More than 500 billion plastic bags are consumed worldwide each year and less than 1 percent are recycled. No matter: It's more expensive to recycle a bag than to produce a new one. It costs $4,000 to process and recycle 1 ton of plastic bags, which can then be sold on the commodities market for $32, according Jared Blumenfeld, Director of San Francisco's Department of the Environment. Watch a video about plastics in the ocean.
Plastic Bags in Our Oceans
So what is happening to those lightweight plastic bags that we don't think much about when we purchase our groceries? Most of them are ending up as "ocean-fill." Bags get blown around and find their way into the sea via drains and sewage pipes and account for more than 10 percent of the debris washed up on the U.S. coastline.

As these plastic bags photodegrade over time, they break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers that eventually contaminate soils and waterways. Microscopic particles can enter the food chain when wildlife ingest the particles, mistaking them for food.

Israel, Canada, western India, Botswana, Kenya, Tanzania, South Africa, Taiwan, Rwanda, Bangladesh, China and Singapore have banned or are moving toward banning the plastic bag. Ireland took the lead in Europe in 2002 by taxing plastic bags, and plastic bag consumption in the country has been reduced by 90 percent.

What can you do?
It's simple. Use a cloth bag and save 6 six bags a week. That's 22,176 bags in your lifetime. Ask a friend to do the same and that number doubles. Ask another friend and it triples. You get the idea.

Hot Issues

Bottled Water is Far From Green

Reasons to Avoid Bottled Water
1. It's more expensive than tap water - as much as 1,000 times more! The average American spends more than $400 a year ($15 billion total in the US) on bottled water. For a fraction of the amount, everyone on the planet could have safe drinking water and proper sanitation.

21st Century Waterfall

2. Producing bottled water uses more water and is more energy intensive than providing the same amount of water to the public via the tap. It takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce the plastic bottles used in a year - enough to fuel about 100,000 cars a year. That's 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide produced, too, contributing to global warming.

3. Tap water is actually safer and healthier. Disposable bottled water has less rigorous testing requirements than city tap water for bacteria and chemical contaminants. And if you leave the bottles in your car, the heat in the car and the plastic can leach out chemicals that can lead to breast and other types of cancers. Bottles may also have been through extreme temperatures during manufacturing, storing and transportation.

4. Plastic bottles are overflowing our landfills. Or, even worse, they end up as trash on the land and in rivers, lakes and the ocean. We use nearly 28 billion plastic bottles a year. Of that, at least 75 percent are thrown away rather than recycled. Approximately 1,500 water bottles end up as garbage every second, according to the Earth Policy Institute (EPI).

5. Plastic debris in the environment can take between 400 and 1,000 years to degrade.

What you can do:

  • If you must drink bottled water, recycle!
  • If you don't trust tap water or you have old plumbing or you think tap water tastes funny, try a water filter like those from PUR or Brita.
  • To carry water with you, use a reusable container filled with tap water. But don't reuse single-use water bottles. This can expose you to bacterial build-up and carcinogens leached from the plastic.

Take the pledge to fill your reusable bottle instead of a landfill.

Other Sources:,,

 Programs & Projects

Support Clean Energy Legislation

Right now, Congress is debating landmark clean energy and climate legislation, HR 2454, the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES). This bill could help address global climate changes and begin to reduce the impact of greenhouse gasses. Americans have approximately five weeks (by the end of September) to get new clean energy legislation passed. Your senators may cast the deciding votes.

Strong and effective clean energy and climate legislation is crucial to the future of our planet. HR 2454 has passed the House of Representatives, and the Senate is currently considering and debating it. Many detractors think the current version of the bill is not strong enough and needs to address additional issues. Many supporters feel the United States, as a world leader, must pass strong legislation to take to the international UN Climate Change Conference in December. What's Your View?

Take Action today. Learn all you can about the proposed legislation and add your voice to the millions of Americans supporting strong clean energy and climate change legislation. Then contact your senators and urge them to do the same thing as they deliberate HR 2454. More info and a summary. Everything you wanted to know, in bullet points.

Write Your SenatorsWays You Can Make A Difference:
1. Call 1-877-9-REPOWER [1-877-973-7693] and leave a message for your Senators that will be delivered to their offices.
2. Sign a letter to your Senators at or write your own letter and send it directly.
3. Visit your Senators' local offices. Request an appointment or just drop in and show your support for clean energy.
4. E-mail your Senators' offices.
5. Write a letter to the editor of your local newspaper supporting clean energy policies.

Repower America is building a grassroots movement here in Florida to educate Americans about how shifting to a clean energy economy will help solve the climate crisis and address other pressing national problems facing our country today. Sponsored by The Alliance for Climate Protection (ACP).

Help Seal the Deal
Join the global chorus calling on world leaders to "seal the deal" on a global agreement to combat climate change. Seal the Deal! is a powerful campaign by the United Nations to encourage governments to agree to a fair, balanced and effective climate agreement when they meet in Copenhagen this December. It's about mobilizing individuals and communities on an ambitious scale to raise a strong call for urgent and united action on climate change. While leadership at the highest level is needed to protect the planet and build a more sustainable global economy, concerted action by ALL is what will make the real difference. Every voice counts!

What you can do:

Have You Seen A Whale Shark?
Whale SharkUniversity of Southern Mississippi Gulf Coast Research Laboratory is currently using data from whale shark sightings in the northern Gulf of Mexico to further understand these animals in the region. To report a sighting, please complete the online survey.

More information about the biology and ecology of whale sharks and updates on current research

Coral Spawning Blog
Post your observations or read about others' experiences with the Caribbean Acropora Spawning event at Email if you want to post.
Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study
FWC Fish and Wildlife Research Institute and Mote Marine Laboratory are seeking voluntary participation in the Tarpon Genetic Recapture Study. A few skin cells from the upper jaw of a tarpon provide enough DNA for scientists to study tarpon movement and recapture rates. All participants who donate tarpon DNA will be entered for a chance to win a great prize. To receive a free DNA sampling kit and instructions about participating, please call (800) 367-4461 or email.

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Don't Miss it:
Repower America Action Meeting
TODAY! Aug. 25, 6-7:15 pm, Key Largo Library
Learn about the comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation expected to reach the Senate floor for a vote in September, and what Florida Keys residents can do to support passage of a strong clean energy bill. For more information, call 305-731-6336 or email.

Back to School Special!

Become a Sanctuary Friend
and support our coral reef
and marine ecosystems.

 From the Board


My shopping habits changed forever the day I viewed these YouTube videos about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch." Don't be fooled by the word patch. It's more like a c
ontinent because it's the size of the United States.

After reading this month's newsletter, we hope that you, too, will change some of your daily habits. The damage we are doing to our planet is inexcusable. It is unconscionable what hazards our throw-away society has produced. But it is not too late to turn the clock back. By making simple choices when we do our shopping, by forgoing the items packaged in plastic and choosing instead recyclable or reusable packaging, we can make a difference. We can vote with our dollars (euros, yen, etc.). True change happens in the home.

Not a day goes by when we are not reminded about the mountain of debt we will be leaving our children, but what about the mountains of garbage they will inherit from us? For helpful ways to do your part go to Precycle: Proactive Recycling and Reduce Reuse Recycle.

How will you get involved? We welcome you to join us as a member of Sanctuary Friends. Our organization supports efforts such as Team Ocean, which conducts regular volunteer beach clean-ups on the small islands surrounding the Keys. Sanctuary Friends members are eligible to participate in these volunteer activities.

Diana Ruelens
SFFFK Administrative Assistant

 Upcoming Events
Coming This Fall
"Eco-Discovery Tours:
Discover the Florida Keys through eco-friendly and historical excursions."
Thousands of islands ... thousands of stories

The Eco-Discovery Center and Sanctuary Friends team up to take visitors on journeys that will teach them about the history and natural wonders of the 1,700 islands that are called the Florida Keys.

Learn underwater photography from an instructor who knows the secrets of the reef, experience the rich history of writers that have called Key West their home, discover nature's beauty as you kayak under the moon through canopied mangrove islands or share a gourmet dinner with local chefs who are dedicated to using organic, local and Floridian delights.

For more information, call 305-289-2288 or e-mail to request a brochure.

Coral Spawning Restoration Dives
Sept. 10-12, Amoray Dive Resort, Key Largo
Coral Restoration Foundation (CRF) workshops. Dates are tentative and will depend on Mother Nature and the beginning of the annual Coral Spawning. CRF hopes to incorporate two restoration dives during the spawn with an anticipated night dive.

The Story of Man's Quest to Explore Under the Sea: Monthly Seminar Series
Sept. 16, History of Diving Museum, Islamorada
Third Wednesday of every month at 7 pm, featuring fascinating speakers from around the world. Divers' Antique Road Show after each seminar. Bring in your old gear, helmets, books, posters, etc. for review. We'll discuss the history behind old gear and talk about evaluating and collecting. Learn what is scrap and what is not. Avoid collecting pitfalls and fakes.

Florida Keys Birding & Wildlife Festival
Sept. 23-27, Curry Hammock State Park, MM 56.2, Marathon.
During the peak of the fall birding season, this event includes presentations, an environmental fair and field trips focusing on education and conservation as they relate to Keys birds and wildlife. Call 305-852-4486 to register. More information.

EcoWeek 2010
Coming! Nov. 1-14, 2010
A Keys-wide event to educate and celebrate environmental preservation. Special activities in the Upper, Middle and Lower Keys. Inagural event in 2010 to celebrate healthy living, a healthy planet and peaceable and sustainable communities.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch - An area in the middle of the North Pacific where plastic debris accumulates across hundreds of miles of open sea. The debris ends up concentrated by circular, clockwise ocean currents within an oblong-shaped "convergence zone" hundreds of miles across from end to end near the Hawaiian Islands, about midway between Japan and the West Coast of the United States.

Little is known about the exact size and scope of the vast debris field discovered some years ago by fishermen and others. Most of the debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the water surface, making it impossible to detect by aircraft or satellite images.

The debris zone shifts by as much as a thousand miles north and south on a seasonal basis, and drifts even farther south during periods of warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures.

Great Pacific Garbage Patch

blue & green occasions

celebrating the event...
                 honoring the earth and sea


We invite you to hold your special celebrations, business meetings and other occasions in a meaningful way at the Florida Keys Eco-Discovery Center. Our staff will help you celebrate in a green way, and your donations will help to give back to the “Sanctuary.” Call today to reserve your date and share your celebration with the earth and sea! Call 847-612-4712 or email.

We want your input! If you have stories of note or just want to comment on our newsletter, please email:
We're developing a Central Environmental Calendar for the Keys. If you have an upcoming event with an environmental focus or that relates to our fabulous Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary, please email:

Our Mission
Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys supports the Florida Keys National Marine Sanctuary (FKNMS) in the preservation, restoration, and sustainable use of our coral reef and marine ecosystems. We focus on development of community support and advancement of public awareness, education, outreach and scientific research.

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Sanctuary Friends Foundation of the Florida Keys
11450 Overseas Highway
Suite 102
Marathon, Florida 33050

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