noaa marine debris workshop

On February 20th and 21st, Surfrider Chicago joined with roughly 40 individuals representing over 30 U.S. and Canadian governmental, not-for-profit, higher education, and corporate entities in an effort to shape the Great Lakes Land-Based Marine Debris Action Plan, which is an initiative to regionally support The Honolulu Strategy, a results-oriented framework of action with the overarching goal to reduce impacts of marine debris over the next ten years. 

The meeting was held at the US EPA Region 5 in downtown Chicago and, among other notable participants, Nancy Wallace, Director of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program, and Dr. Sherri A. “Sam” Mason of SUNY Fredonia, the researcher that collaborated with 5 Gyres to conduct the first-ever survey for plastic pollution within the open waters of the Great Lakes, were present. The principle focus of the workshop was to review and refine goals and objectives developed through the May 2013 Great Lakes Land-Based Marine Debris Workshop held in Cleveland, OH, and to begin to flesh-out implementation strategies. 

Key feedback from Surfrider Chicago included the need to place emphasis on waste reduction strategies, including consumer education about making better choices, and establishing targets that are logically sequenced so that all plan objectives can be achieved on time. A draft Great Lakes Land-Based Marine Debris Action Plan reflecting input received from participating stakeholders will be circulated for review in either March or April 2014 and Surfrider Chicago will continue to participate in shaping the final plan. We will also need to establish implementation strategies that Surfrider Chicago, and perhaps other Great Lakes chapters, can take ownership of.




With A Kite takes an inside look at the most influential contest in the sport of kiteboarding via the perspective of pro rider Davey Blair and his fellow brotherhood of some of the world's best riders. Shot on location in Cape Hatteras, North Carolina, Nitro City Panama, Hood River, Oregon, Tampa, Florida and Charleston, South Carolina, the film opens with narration by Sir Richard Branson as the history of human flight via kite unfolds through stunning watercolor animation. The film then follows the riders on their annual pilgrimage to the 2013 Triple S Invitational with a few side trips to Nitro City, Hood River and Florida to spend some quality time with our core characters in a few of the world's greatest kite destinations 

How often do we get a new movie dedicated to the magnificent sport of kiteboarding?! This documentary is sure to be entertaining to the seasoned kiteboarder, those interested in getting their start as well as those who have been dazzled by the sport or lifestyle, alike. Come enjoy this pre-release screening and mingling party with other like-minded peeps riding a similar proverbial wave! 

Reserve your Tickets 




The 5 Gyres Institute, in collaboration with researchers from SUNY Fredonia, have published the first micro-plastic pollution survey of the Great Lakes Region in the Marine Pollution Bulletin. Says 5 Gyres’ Dr. Marcus Eriksen, lead author on the paper, “We found high concentrations of micro-plastics, more than most ocean samples collected worldwide. These were of similar size, shape, texture and composition to plastic microbeads found in many consumer products used as exfoliants, giving us circumstantial evidence that these products, designed to be washed down the drain, are not adequately being captured by sewage treatment.” 

5 Gyres is the first research organization to study all 5 Oceans, and the only organization to study the southern hemisphere gyres. After completing that work, the subject of a forthcoming scientific paper, 5 Gyres sailed throughout The Great Lakes in two expeditions to quantify the presence of plastics. 

The highest abundance measured was 466,000 particles/km2 with an average of 43,000 particles/km2 throughout all the samples. The highest concentrations of micro-plastics were observed in Lake Erie, and accounted for about 90% of the total plastics found. In addition to polyethylene and polypropylene beads found in the samples, there were also particles of aluminum silicate, or coal ash, a byproduct of coal fired power plants. 

With these findings, The 5 Gyres Institute launched a Corporate Social Responsibility campaign last year asking the manufacturers of personal care products to pledge to remove these plastic microbeads from their products. Faced with this preliminary evidence, now solidified by the scientific paper’s publication in a peer-reviewed journal, many of the companies targeted have agreed to phase out the use of these beads, namely, L’Oreal, The Body Shop, Colgate-Palmolive, Unilever, Johnson & Johnson, and Procter & Gamble. Though a tremendous victory for The Great Lakes, 5 Gyres recognizes the need for further engagement. Several states and municipalities have expressed a desire to consider legislation banning micro-plastics as ingredients in consumer products because of their tendency to escape sewage treatment. 5 Gyres is working with a team of advisors to produce model legislation for states to consider. 

Continuing the grassroots campaign will only buoy these legislative efforts. In partnership with The Plastic Soup Foundation (Netherlands) and Stichting De Noordzee (Netherlands), The 5 Gyres Institute has launched the microsite as well as the international mobile app. “Beat The Microbead” which allows consumers to scan the barcode of personal care products to determine whether they contain plastic microbeads and whether the manufacturer has agreed to remove them or not. 

“The Beat The Microbead app. is a powerful tool that takes the guess work out of whether or not you’ll be washing your face with plastic, ” says 5 Gyres Policy Director, Stiv Wilson, “Since launching our public awareness and corporate facing campaign, the overwhelming reaction from our community is shock and anger. People simply don’t like washing their face with plastic, and the fact that it’s designed to go straight into the environment makes microbeads a particularly egregious source of plastic pollution. These beads are similar in size to fish eggs and can absorb and concentrate toxins found in the aquatic environment, making them an ecosystem wide threat to the food chain. This can ultimately threaten human health as well. ” 5 Gyres volunteers across the country are working to add to the ever growing database of products that employ micro-beads. 

About The 5 Gyres Institute
The 5 Gyres Institute, for a planet free of plastic pollution, is a non-profit organization dedicated to researching the issue of plastics in the world’s oceans, and engaging communities in systemic change. In 2011, 5 Gyres completed the first global survey of plastic marine pollution, finding evidence of plastic across all 5 subtropical “gyres”, oceanic current systems where plastic waste accumulates. In addition to contaminating precious marine ecosystems, plastic waste threatens wildlife, and poses risks to human health as toxic chemicals from plastic enter the food chain we depend on. Utilizing scientific findings, 5 Gyres engages corporate partners, policymakers, and the general public to reduce plastic pollution by improving product design, recovery systems, and individual responsibility for plastic waste.




On an unseasonably warm, muggy October day, Surfrider Chicago fielded a small, but hardy group of volunteers to de-plasticize the city's best surf break: 57th Street Beach. Usually attracted to north side beaches due to centrifugal force, proximity, and perks, we turned our attentions to the south side this time. The beach was already in decent shape from prior attention lavished on it, but we "detailed" it with care, and even sent a SWAT team into the giant rocks to clean up dark recesses that had possibly never seen the hand of man. Kudos to those brave enough to perform this filthy work. As the clean up wrapped, the clouds gave way to a burning sun, and water fun commenced in the clear, beautiful low 60's degree Lake. This event concludes the Chapter's 2013 outdoors/beach season.




Surfrider Chicago made its first official recon in August of one of the city's great natural features: Morgan Shoals. "What's that?" you ask. You've seen it if you ever driven on Lake Shore Drive and seen THAT THING sticking out of the water at about 49th St… a boulder… a giant piling… waves crashing all around it as if it's some kind of reef. 

It is a reef—of the Great Lakes variety. A giant shelf of dolomite limestone, formed during the glacial carving of the region 300 million years ago, sitting just offshore of "Pebbly Beach" (at 49th St), and varies from three to ten feet deep, host to an amazing ecology of fish, birds, plants and invertebrates. And that thing sticking out of the water? It's the giant boiler of the steamer Silver Spray; wrecked on the shoal 98 years ago. (the fish love it, of course) What does all of this mean? That Morgan Shoals, beyond being an extreme hazard to wayward boaters, is the unlikeliest of destinations: a Chicago snorkeling spot. On a clear, calm day (think: light, offshore conditions), it's as close to an Aruba-like dive as you'll ever find around here. 

On a fine, sunny August morn, Chapter activists Zoë M, Adrien S, and I, met with the unofficial steward of Morgan Shoals, Greg Lane, for an underwater tour. Greg is, among other things, an underwater archeologist, and swim/dives the shoals every day. Every day of the year, that is. (think about that) He'd like to see this incredible little spot declared an "aquatic sanctuary", and in so doing, be protected from the ravages and vicissitudes of lakeshore expansions and projects for a long time to come. 

Greg likes to turn people on to this spot, and conducts underwater tours regularly. He can be reached at 

Definitely one of the coolest things to do in an urban environment.