OCEAN TRASH: It’s Not Rocket Science


The single-most powerful contrast as a sailor living half of my year in developed regions (mostly Canada) and the other half in developing countries is the extreme behavioral differences towards human waste; and garbage in particular. Canada, and most developed countries are pretty conscientious; we can always improve, but generally most places are reasonably pristine, and a lot of effort is taking place to create and maintain sustainable environments. In contrast, the developing (Third World) countries that I visit do nothing. Nada. Many places don’t even have garbage cans; not to mention pick-up, landfills, re-cycling or education. Nor do they have the finances, wherewithal, or infrastructure to move forward in sustainability. Sadly, over half of the world population live in these conditions and nothing is being done to improve this serious calamity.

Garbage sits on their shorelines waiting for the next high tide or rain storm to be consumed by the oceans’ swells and be taken to the closest mid-ocean “garbage patch” (a.k.a gyre, vortex). It’s not their fault. They don’t know any better. But we do.Oceans in Turmoil 3

Why should we care? Because the ocean is the heart and lungs of our planet. These toxins and plastics are killing our marine life. Sustainable oceans is, without a doubt, the most important priority facing mankind today. No BLUE. No GREEN.

The world spends over 1.5 trillion dollars on military each year. What a distorted and sad reflection of human values. Just imagine what we could do to clean and preserve our planet with just a portion of these funds. More importantly, if we don’t take immediate and extreme measures to address our environmental issues there will be nothing left to defend.

There are a multitude of measurements that different agencies use to count the size of our 5 major garbage patches (that we know of) in the world. According to a recently released report by the Ocean Conservatory, there are 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic trash in the world’s oceans, and each year, 8 million tons of plastic are added to the count. I’m not sure how they actually “count” these huge volumes garbage in these gyres that are not easily viewed by satellite, and apparently appear like a humongous submerged ocean cloud and at least a 1,000 miles from land. I’ll have to take their word.

The same report calls for a focus on improving waste management systems in a handful of developing countries that are mostly responsible for the plastic leakage into the ocean. “China, Indonesia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam contribute more than half of the oceans’ plastic since their waste infrastructure hasn’t kept up with rapid industrialization. We can concentrate on the places where the plastic is hitting the ocean. Five countries would solve half the problem.”

While I’m delighted that the Ocean Conservatory recognizes the monumental need to address developing countries, I am writing this piece from the shores of El Salvador, Central America, and after recently sailing this coastline as well as South America and Panama I can assure you that this side of the pond is equally dire.

One and a quarter billion people live within 100 kilometers of the world’s coastlines; many rely entirely on fishing for their food and livlihood, and many live in developing countries with their beaches and water run-off systems laden with garbage. With every rain storm and often daily high tide, each trash item floats into the waterways to the ocean – on route for the nearest current to usher it to the closest “garbage patch.” During this 6 month to 6 year voyage to the “patch,” weather breaks this garbage into tiny micro-plastics which presents like confetti. The fish think that it’s food. These toxins are potentially lethal to the fish, and to the people who eat the fish. Many fish die, and many marine species including birds are found strangled in garbage and with huge amounts of plastics in their digestive systems.Great Pacific Garbage Patch map

The world’s best and brightest minds are meeting in Paris next month to address Climate Change. Never before has the world seen so many well informed and compassionate sustainability activists collecting together in an attempt to solve our planet’s dire prognosis. It’s admirable that the pendulum is beginning to swing and politicians, international businesses, and agencies are rising to the challenge of taking responsibility for the demise of our planet that is now proven to be caused by human activity. I’m jealous. I would desperately love to attend this important conference.

Will the delegates at this Summit address the serious issue of human waste entering our oceans in developing countries, and make it a priority so that the beaches and waterways in these regions can be cleaned and managed? Likely not. Their topics relate to Climate Change which is also caused by humans and equally devastating to our oceans and planet. The attendees will be establishing new strategies for reducing carbon emissions, carbon tax credits and incentives, setting global emission standards and tapping into the latest technologies for reducing carbon emissions into our atmosphere.

Our oceans will benefit from this Summit because of the 30 billion tons of carbon emissions that enter our atmosphere annually, a third is absorbed into our oceans and raising the acidity levels. Many marine organisms that produce calcium carbonate shells or skeletons are negatively impacted by increasing CO2 levels and decreasing pH in seawater. For example, increasing ocean acidification has been shown to significantly reduce the ability of reef-building corals to produce their skeletons. Over 25 percent of our fish depend on coral for food, reproduction and shelter and the current depletion of our coral reefs (50% in the world and 80% in highly tourist-ed areas such as the Caribbean) is devastating the marine life that depend on coral.

That said, it would be tragic to have this many like-minded, environmentally savvy, kindred spirits together in one place and not address our monumental waste crisis.

Regardless, the world needs to seriously address human waste that’s entering our oceans at the source.  These communities need garbage receptacles, removal, landfill sites, re-cycling centers and education. It’s not rocket science, and nor is this an expensive proposition. A limited-time bounty on the current garbage would have these beaches cleaned in a Nano-second. Remember, we too were once “litter bugs.”

This one-hole outhouse serves NINE families, and one of the nicer ones on Isla Cordonilla, El Salvador

This Aid to developing countries is a small price to pay compared to the consequences facing the planet as the global populations expand and infrastructures weaken even more. Numerous impressive businesses and agencies are working hard to address the garbage that’s already made its way to the gyres. Why not nip it at the source? It’s far easier and less costly. But time is of essence. This garbage enters our oceans daily with every high tide from all corners of the globe.

I’ve been on my own one-person crusade since 2008 to save our precious oceans. After personally witnessing the demise of our oceans in the past 30 years I feel compelled to make my little contribution in my writings and speaking events. (My recently released book entitled, “What Was I Thinking? Adventures of a Woman Sailing Solo” is now in the 3rd Edition and sold over 2500 copies.) Yet, I’m just a simple sailor. A sailor who has traveled to over 100 countries and covered well over 100,000 ocean miles. I’ve seen a lot.

Cruising sailors see things that most people don’t – not cruise ships, mega-yachts, freighters, and even research boats that are dedicated to one facet of marine life. The ocean is our home, and we live in these remote villages for months at a time. We also tend to go slowly along the shoreline and have time to pay attention to our surroundings.

Ocean Slick in Mexico
Oil slick stretching hundreds of miles off the coast of Mexico (2014).

What bothers me is that the influential people who can make a difference in the world including those attending the Paris Summit (who operate from their pristine ivory towers) don’t see what I see as a simple sailor: miles and miles of beaches lined with garbage and not a receptacle in sight; filthy water unfit for swimming; red tide for hundreds of miles in a stretch; broken and bleached coral reefs; villages with no sanitation facilities; fishing communities that are unable to feed their families…and so on.  It’s really desperate with no sign of prosperity, education or improved infrastructure in sight.

Our First World can be dutifully pro-active, but as long as our 3rd World countries – representing half the world population – are languishing in their garbage and unfit waste sanitation systems, we’re really not moving forward. I reiterate, there are no borders when garbage and human waste enters our oceans.

Oceans in Turmoil 4

Ironically, these developing countries could teach our developed regions about re-cycling and re-use – not to mention that “consumption” doesn’t necessarily make us happy. (If smiles and laughter are a measurement of happiness then these developing countries are way ahead of more sophisticated cultures.) They’re rocket-stars in terms of fixing things and using every product and material until its final death. I recently noticed an innovative fisherman making floats for his fishing line with old flip flops cut into donut rings. IMG_20151026_105733

I can expand on multiple solutions and strategies for addressing this waste in developing countries, and spend considerable time each day writing to people in high places together with representatives who will be attending the Paris Summit. In addition to being proactive with human waste, multinational corporations that do business in the developing countries should be required to maintain the same sustainability standards as they do in their own First World countries – as leaders, AND to avoid raping the environment with irresponsible practices that would be disallowed at home. I have other ideas, but that’s for another BLOG…or perhaps someone going Paris will respond??

So far no one has responded. I suppose my status as a simple sailor doesn’t warrant attention in the same way that most of these developing countries aren’t represented at this conference.

If you could see what I see you would be ranting as well!Pamela at work

Currently in El Salvador, Central America.


Living Blue Oceans

For generations, we believed the vastness and depths of the oceans left them beyond the capacity of humans to alter. In the last four decades, however, we’ve seen the fallacy of that thinking, as our actions have led to serious declines in ocean health.

Last week a new WWF report — the Living Blue Planet Report — revealed that we have lost nearly half of the oceans’ wildlife in the last 40 years. Gone. In just one human generation, populations of marine fish, birds, mammals, and reptiles have declined by half. That is a staggering statistic. (NOTE: This extensive WWF Report is the most comprehensive I’ve read on our oceans.)

This shouldn’t be any surprise: we have treated the ocean like a global bank account where we make withdrawals of its resources year after year, without any deposits. And just like with a bank account, that pattern leads only to depletion and eventual bankruptcy.

Symptoms of a degraded ocean include declines of 50 percent in global fish stocks since 1970; dramatic declines in populations of the oceans’ largest predators; half of global coral reefs lost over the last 30 years; mangroves and seagrass habitatsshrinking; and an increase in the number of dead zones due to nutrient pollution — from 49 in 1960 to more than 400 today.

If that is not disturbing enough, there are now measurable changes in sea levels, surface temperatures, salinity and the pH of ocean water due to absorption of atmospheric heat and the deposition of carbon in the oceans. The ocean’s fundamental chemistry is changing faster than it has over the past 65 million years.

The news is depressing for sure, but we can’t bury our heads in the sand or admit defeat. It is our actions that are driving these declines, and we can most certainly do something about them. There are solutions and there is no more time to wait.

Two upcoming global events can set a new course for our ocean’s future. This month, the UN General Assembly will finalize its Sustainable Development Goals for the next 15 years. The goals — which include a stand-alone goal on oceans — could be an organizing framework for the concerted, international action we need for ocean conservation.

The oceans goal contains the right targets to conserve and sustainably use ocean resources. But it is essential that these targets to address habitat destruction, over-harvesting, illegal fishing, and marine pollution are accompanied by specific implementation plans and the concrete investments needed to make them a reality.

In December, at the UN climate conference in Paris, we can address the cause of the existential threat to our oceans — carbon pollution. The ocean absorbs vast amounts of our carbon-dioxide pollution, as well as some 90 percent of the heat to date resulting from the greenhouse effect. This has two major effects. First is that the ocean is warming, expanding, sea ice is melting, and sea levels are rising. Second is that the ocean is acidifying, as it absorbs carbon. These two major effects threaten the foundations of life in the oceans, are changing weather patterns, and resulting in the loss of vital habitats, such as coral reefs. We must leave Paris with a strong climate deal that will slash the emissions driving the climate and ocean crisis.

WWF calculated that the oceans’ assets are worth $24 trillion. Compared to the world’s top 10 economies, the ocean would rank seventh, with annual goods and services worth $2.5 trillion. Not quantified in this report were basic life-support functions the oceans provide, such as half of the oxygen we breathe and regulation of the planet’s climate and its water cycles.

The world’s leaders must act on these opportunities to prioritize the actions and investments that will help our oceans recover. During the UN Sustainable Development Summit this month, there will be global attention on the ocean. The realities of the ocean’s declining health need to be front and center during the ocean-goal discussion — so much of our future depends on its recovery.

The Huffington Post, September 22, 2015

Pacific Yachting Recent Article

One of my favorite British Columbia authors Marianne Scott, recently published a wonderful story in the August edition of Pacific Yachting about my sailing background as well as my last 5 year voyage. What a wonderful honour. Click on the link to view the article.

IF Fish Could Talk

Admiral R. Future

Hello Mr. and Mrs. Human Being

Thank you for allowing me to speak to your species today. Before I begin, I want you to know that on behalf of the millions of marine species in the oceans – we are not pleased with your species. You should also know the oceans represent 70 percent of this planet. Every breath you take, every food you eat, every weather system that you experience, everything in your life – is connected to our oceans. WE can live without YOU, but YOU cannot live without US…and time is seriously running out for ALL of us, and the future of our planet.  

Admiral R. Future



INTRODUCTION and Synopsis of My “If Fish Could Talk” Professional Speaking Presentations in 2014.

I am not a scientist, marine biologist, lobbyist, employee, or researcher. I am just a simple sailor. A simple sailor who has navigated over 100,000 nautical miles in her lifetime – many single-handed. A sailor who is passionate about the ocean. The ocean is my home.

So why should you pay attention to ME?

Because, cruising sailors see things and places along the world’s coastline that most people on our planet don’t know exist. We generally sail very slowly and venture into coastal villages and communities that are ignored or bypassed by most people in the world – as tourists, researchers, mega-yachts, or freighters. I believe that I ran my last marathon faster that my boat sails, and most of my cruising is coastal. (Most recently along the shores of western Canada, Unites States, South and Central America, and many unique islands along the route (Galapagos, Cocos, Las Perlas in Panama and many more.)

My love for the oceans and the unique cruising lifestyle began in the early 1980’s when my former husband Michael and I had a yearning desire to sail around the world. Our children, Sam and Charlie were ages 10 and 4 respectively, and after taking numerous courses and extensive preparation we set sail from British Columbia, Canada on a 2.5 year voyage that would change my life forever. Our 35,000 nautical mile voyage took us throughout the exquisite islands of the South Pacific Ocean to New Zealand and north to Japan – at a time when there was no GPS; rather, sails and a sextant were our only navigation tools.

I fell in love during this voyage. I fell in love with stunning sunrises and sunsets. I fell in love with snorkeling through brilliantly coloured coral reefs with an abundance of fascinating tropical fish. I fell in love with having the ability to catch our daily sustenance and exist primarily off the land and sea. I fell in love with sailing through pristine tropical islands surrounded by clear turquoise oceans with depths as far as the eye could see. I fell in love with the cruising lifestyle whereby one can take their family and small home anywhere in the world that’s attached to the ocean and live in these remote communities; eat their food, and enjoy their customs and culture.

Upon our return to Canada in 1989, I vowed that we would raise our children wholeheartedly, and enjoy traditional lifestyles; however, we would also strive to earn enough money to once again return to cruising on the ocean. The sea beckoned, and I could never let go.

Fast forward 30 years. Sam and Charlie became terrific young adults and married to wonderful daughters-in-law. I rode an outstanding wave in my career in the investment business in the ‘90s and retired in 2001. Sadly, I was no longer married; however, in my divorce settlement I was able to hang on to one bright glimmer of hope that represented a positive future: I got the boat!

Precious Metal is a luxurious steel, 47 foot custom-design cutter rig built in 1999 to sail anywhere in the world. She could have been called “Wish List” because I had inscribed a wish list in the back of my Log Book from the South Pacific voyage that included all of her exclusive amenities including: bathtub, wash and dryer, walk-in engine room with a full size work bench, cherry wood interior, and the best sails and rigging that money could buy.

In spite of my divorce, and my 50th year being the darkest of my life, I was determined to follow my dream of “sailing off into the sunset” and return to the cruising lifestyle that I once loved so intoxicatingly. In 2008, accompanied by my little dog Riley, we set sail on a 5 year, 25,000 ocean adventure of a lifetime: down the west coast of United States, Mexico, South and Central America, Panama and Galapagos.

Happy World Oceans Day

June 8:  The Most Important Day Of The Year For Humanity

World Oceans Day Action

Today is the day to celebrate our oceans and marine life – the heart and lungs of our planet that is now struggling so hard to stay alive because of the recent degradation by humans.

We should all just try to do one thing today in honour of our oceans: improve garbage habits – including reduction of use of plastics, Google Ocean Sustainability and become more educated – including Sylvia Earle’s YOUTUBE 2009 Award winning TED speech, consider changing your car to minimize carbon emissions, ride a bicycle to wherever you need to go, change all of your light bulbs to LED, contact your politicians to discuss their environmental views and impress upon them that it should be a priority, take stock of ways that YOU can reduce your human footprint. Reducing your carbon footprint is a process, and doesn’t happen overnight. We continuously need to alter the way we think and behave.

As a top predator, humans from the tropics to the poles have harvested all forms of marine life, from the smallest shrimp to the largest whales, from the ocean’s surface to its floor. The staggering volume of fish removed from our waters has had a ripple effect through all ocean ecosystems – 90 percent of our major predators have been taken from our oceans – including sharks and tuna. Fifty percent of our coral reefs are dead and 80 are in peril. Over 25 percent of our marine life depends on these precious coral reefs.

Yet the ocean continues to provide food for billions of people, and improved fishing practices in many places are leading to healthier marine-life populations. We’re slowly getting better at managing what we catch to keep it within the ocean’s capacity to replenish. But while we may be advancing in this battle, we’re losing the war with climate change and pollution.

In the coming years, the life of our oceans will be defined by what we put into them: garbage, carbon dioxide, nutrients washed from the land, diseases from aquaculture and land-based animals, invasive species, plastics, medications, contaminants, noise and ever-increasing marine traffic. We once incorrectly viewed our oceans as limitless storehouses of marine bounty and places to dump our garbage; now it’s clear they can’t  handle this magnitude of destruction.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s recent report described how ingredients in the ocean’s composition are changing dramatically. Life in the seas is closely linked to factors in the immediate surroundings, such as temperature, acidity or pH, salinity, oxygen and nutrient availability. We now have over 400 DEAD Zones that we know of on our planet – meaning NO LIFE, NO OXYGEN. Importantly, the location of these dead zones line the shorelines of our continents! The largest is in one of our ocean’s most reproductive region in the Gulf of Mexico and is over 77,000 square miles.

The oceans now absorb one-quarter of the 30 billion tons of carbon that we send into the atmosphere each year. We are not only changing the currents and weather patterns on our planet but as well the acidic levels of the ocean composition is rising. That’s really bad news for organisms with calcium carbonate shells that dissolve in acidic conditions, as well as the entire ocean ecosystem.

By 2050 scientists predict that there will be no more fish if we continue to mismanage our oceans. Over half of a billion people in this world live within 100 kilometers of the ocean and depend on fish for their food and livelihood.

Human”s short-sighted, and somewhat selfish lifestyles have created this problem, and therefore we should be responsible to FIX it. Ironically, the ocean’s demise has taken place when the Hippies from the ’70s became Yuppies in the ’90s. Most of this has happened on OUR WATCH.

The oceans can live without US, but we can’t live without the oceans.

World renowned marine biologist Sylvia Earle concluded her 2009 award winning TED speech by saying, “We have 10 years to make this right. TEN years on behalf of the 10s of 1000s of years ahead on this planet.”

That was 5 years ago…

What will YOU do today on behalf of our oceans? I would love to hear from you…