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R.I. launches new efforts to fight marine pollution

Vestas 11th Hour skipper Charlie Enright (left) and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management director Janet Coit at the Ocean Summit during the Volvo Ocean Race’s Newport stopover. Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race photo

Vestas 11th Hour skipper Charlie Enright (left) and Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management director Janet Coit at the Ocean Summit during the Volvo Ocean Race’s Newport stopover. Jesus Renedo/Volvo Ocean Race photo

Rhode Island hosted an Ocean Summit last week as part of the Volvo Ocean Race’s Newport stopover, the fourth event the state has organized to draw attention to the problem of trash in our oceans.

Several initiatives were launched at the summit, which brings together race competitors, organizers, environmentalists, philanthropists and corporate executives to raise awareness of plastics in the water.

Acting on behalf of Gov. Gina Raimondo, Rhode Island Department of Environmental Management director Janet Coit announced that the Ocean State is the first to sign the Clean Seas Pledge, a United Nations campaign that aims to eliminate water pollution from plastics.

Coit also announced two new programs designed to support that pledge: the Zero Plastic Marina Initiative, a voluntary effort between the R.I. DEM, the Rhode Island Marine Trades Association and marina operators to keep plastics out of Narragansett Bay and the ocean coastline.

Also, a pilot program will see fiberglass boats ground up and recycled for use in a new durable, flexible cement.

“Solutions to big problems start somewhere,” said Coit at the summit. “We’re aware that the issues surrounding climate change are dire and significant and more needs to be done. Not everyone is aware that 80 percent of the plastics in the ocean come from land. By taking on this problem here and demonstrating what can be done to solve it can have a ripple effect around the world.”

“Sail Newport is very proud to be associated with the R.I. DEM and follows its lead to protect the ‘blue space’ that we cherish as our most important resource,” said Brad Read, executive director of Sail Newport, the co-host of the Volvo Ocean Race Newport stopover.

Race officials said they are alarmed by the amount of micro-plastic particles in remote areas, such as the Southern Ocean. The highest concentration of micro-plastics was found in the South China Sea, at 357 particles per cubic meter.

The three towns on Aquidneck Island — Newport, Middletown and Portsmouth — also agreed to adopt the Clean Seas Pledge.

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