Monday, November 26, 2018

The Straw Revolution

Want to know a great thing about human beings?

I believe it is fair to say, that most people who see another person or animal suffering feel inclined not only to sympathy, but also to action. There was a video recently which went viral because it tugged at the heartstrings. This video was of a sea turtle with a foreign object lodged in its nose. This object turned out to be a 4 inch plastic straw. A team of scientists found this sea turtle while doing research in the field and removed the plastic from the animal’s nose. Plastic, although sometimes useful, can be detrimental to marine wildlife, and the environment as a whole.

Photo taken from National Geographic
Plastic, although a seemingly affordable resource in manufacturing, has many long-term and detrimental consequences. Plastic does not ever fully go away. Even when being made smaller through bio or photo-degradation, there are many factors that affect and inhibit upon these natural and chemical processes. As the disintegration of degradable plastic occurs, what’s left: micro plastics and nurdles, still pose a threat to wildlife. 

Plastic releases toxins and carcinogens into the environment, and is often times mistaken as food for hungry sea turtles, whales, sharks, birds etc. This is not ideal because not only can they choke on this material, but when they consume plastic, their bodies do not obtain the nutrients necessary for survival. 

I have begun to do something, and I encourage you all to join me! Choose an alternative to plastic straws. There are so many options! Here’s what I came up with:

Bambooorganics. Natural Bamboo Straws.
Bamboo Straws: These last a while, however, they do disintegrate after many uses. They can be hand washed. The benefit of bamboo is that the it grows very quickly and plentifully and can thus keep up with high demand.

Glass Straws: A great, long lasting alternative to plastic.  Glass in and of itself is relatively fragile, it CAN break. However, in my experience, several of the ones that I’ve used have been thicker than expected and sturdy. These straws are not designed to bend so in travel,  it will need to be carried in a way that takes its length into consideration.  

Metal Straws from Fin Pins

Metal Straws: They can come collapsible, making them mobile and convenient. Silicone tips can also be purchased with the metal straw to minimize chipping tooth discomfort when drinking. Again, these straws typically come with a brush for cleaning purposes. And many provide a bag for convenience when traveling. The metal straws we purchased were from Fin Pins and meaningfully say "Protect our Oceans."

Paper Straws: These are a great one time use alternative. They are perfect for parties or functions, and will not damage teeth for all my straw chewers out there. The downfall of the paper straw however, is that they disintegrate, sometimes, before the drink has been consumed.

Stainless Steel Straws
Stainless Steel Straws: Stainless steel is a metal, and therefore a conductor of heat. This makes the possibility of burning oneself when using this type of straw to drink a hot drink a possibility. Stainless steel also has temperature absorption qualities so if the drink is cold, the straw may be cold, if the drink is hot, the straw will be as well. It is important to keep this in mind. With this being said, this straw is another one of my personal preferences.

The benefit of being alive in this time of history is that we each have access to knowledge and a way to network with others for any cause that matters to us. Here at NECWA, it is our marine wildlife that we focus on and work hard to protect. We need them, and they need us. And I need you!

Jasmine trying out a glass straw.
I have provided links to small and local businesses who can not only supply these products, but also have a mission of charity. Let’s support each other!

NO action is too small.

-Jasmine Figueroa
New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance
Intern/ Volunteer

“With Knowledge come empathy, with empathy comes change, and with change comes peace; For all beings alive and conscious in their own way”

Non-Profit/Small Business
IG: @finpinshop
IG: @simplystraws


Wednesday, November 14, 2018

Team Mola

Researcher Aimee Carlson presenting on recent ocean sunfish tagging activities.
What does it mean to be a member of Team Mola? On a small scale, it means working with friends and neighbors on a community-based project focused on the heaviest bony fish in the world - the Ocean Sunfish. The mission of this team is to better understand and protect Ocean Sunfish, or Mola mola, that live and feed off the shores of New England. 
Fisheries Biologist Aimee Carlson
On Saturday, September 20th, the New England Coastal Wildlife Alliance (NECWA) in collaboration with Coonamessett Farm Foundation and Wellfleet Bay Wildlife Sanctuary hosted their first Team Mola training session at the Mass Audubon sanctuary in Wellfleet, MA. The goal of Team Mola is to build a network of volunteers that can assist NECWA with rescues and necropsies of ocean sunfish strandings. These strandings are annual event that occur each fall and early winter, typically along the shores of Cape Cod. 
Marine artifact materials on display
Team Mola members work together to gather as much information about Ocean Sunfish as possible. Working with NECWA staff and interns, Team Mola members assist with rescues of live ocean sunfish as well as necropsies (animal autopsies) of carcasses that wash ashore. The efforts of Team Mola help NECWA more efficiently, safely and effectively respond to ocean sunfish strandings. Team Mola members also provide additional coverage with more recent projects, such as NECWA's tagging and tracking activities. Fisheries biologist Aimee Carlson from Coonamessett Farm Foundation in Falmouth provided an update on her teams recent tagging efforts using both satellite tags and mark & recapture tags. 

Powerpoint Presentations
Since 2005, NECWA has sponsored a community-sighting network called the New England Basking Shark and Ocean Sunfish Project at This network asks the general public to report their sightings of live and dead basking sharks and ocean sunfish the they see from a boat or from the beach. What NECWA was not expecting were the annual calls each fall and early winter concerning stranded ocean sunfish. Now NECWA is prepared and is working hard to address this issue.
Team Mola field kits to support the work these volunteers are doing.
When reporting a sighting, make sure to record the date, time and position of the animal and take lots of pictures. This information is important for it builds on what we know about these coastal pelagic giants who are some of the most unusual looking fish in New England. There are many good and free app for cell phones that provide a latitude and longitude. Take a screenshot of that screen and you will have both the time and the location of whatever you are trying to document. 
Hal Levine teaching participants how to weigh an ocean sunfish
Team Mola is also about connecting the New England community with the unique marine animals that live in our coastal backyard. It provides unity and collaboration by asking the community to come together to help an animal in need.
Showing correct measuring techniques on a cardboard ocean sunfish.

If you would like to learn more about Team Mola, contact NECWA at Anyone can get involved so give us a shout and let's see how we can include you in this exciting and innovative group. 
To learn more about NECWA and its goals, visit our website at
Showing how to collect measurements using a cardboard ocean sunfish
If you would like to learn more about the amazing Ocean Sunfish, check out these websites:
Blog posting written by Krill Carson and Haley Pollard (NECWA Intern)