Middle River Dispatches is a gumbo of posts about fly-fishing, conservation, politics and days afield.

Microfiber Pollution

As I find other interesting articles and videos on this subject I will put links at the bottom of this post.

As a part-time fishing guide, water is an essential element of my life. What happens to and in the water has a direct impact on the quality of the experience for my clients. As a board member of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association (AFFTA), I have a keen interest in how the industry looks at and addresses water issues, whether they are access or quality. As the deputy director of the Marine Fish Conservation Network where my focus is on marine issues, so I am tuned into the challenges we face with our oceans.

One subject that gets my attention in all three areas of my professional life is the issue of plastic pollution. The shop I guide for, Mossy Creek Fly Fishing, found an innovative solution to the use of disposable plastic containers for fishing flies. AFFTA quickly embraced this solution and now promotes it as an industry best practice. Packaging is the biggest part of the plastic pollution problem but not the only one. It was the small stuff that recently caught my attention.

One company that is at the forefront of environmental issues is Patagonia. They have been educating people about plastic pollution in our oceans for years. In June 2016, they turned their attention to microplastics in the waste stream. According to the post, What Do We Know About Tiny Plastic Fibers in the Ocean? in Patagonia’s Footprint Chronicles, the microfibers in synthetic clothes like fleece are shed during washing and are not captured by filter systems in treatment plants. The microfibers wind up in the ocean, on beaches, and in rivers and lakes. According to Patagonia:

“We know a single synthetic garment can shed thousands of synthetic microfibers in a single wash. We also know synthetic microfibers, as opposed to microplastic beads, have an irregular shape that can pose a threat to smaller organisms—and may enter the food chain and work their way up to humans. We also know we sell a lot of fleece; what we produce, combined with all the polyester and nylon products made and sold by other outdoor and apparel brands (and other industries), may constitute a significant problem.”

While knowing there is a problem is a key first step, the important question is what each of us can do about it. Somedays the challenges we face seem daunting especially when seen through the twin lens of policy and politics. Daunting they may be, but there are things we as individuals can do to make a difference.

Last month in a follow-up post, An Update on Microfiber Pollution, Patagonia
shared what they have learned and where they are headed. “Over the past two years, the shedding of microfibers from Patagonia’s synthetic garments has taken on heightened urgency in how we consider our priorities moving forward. We’ve been working on several fronts…”

Here are the steps Patagonia suggests individuals can take.

  • Keep Using It: Keeping our gear in use longer is something we can all do to reduce our personal impact on the planet. Buy only what you need, buy high quality and make it last. In Patagonia’s recent study with researchers at the University of California, Santa Barbara, a low-quality, generic-brand fleece shed significantly more over its life span than Patagonia’s high-quality products (brenmicroplastics.weebly.com).
  • Wash Less Often & Invest in a Front-load Washer: Microfibers shed in the wash—so wash your gear only when it’s absolutely necessary (you’ll conserve water in the process). Even your most-used outerwear should only need a full wash occasionally. If it’s caked with dirt (and we hope it will be), consider using a rag or sponge to spot clean rather than putting it through a machine cycle. And consider your washing machine: Studies show synthetic jackets laundered in top-load washing machines shed more than five times as many microfibers as the same jacket in front-load washers.
  • Fiber Filters Help: Putting your synthetic clothing into a filter bag before washing by hand or machine can significantly reduce the flow of microfibers into your drain. Starting in the coming weeks, you can buy (at cost) the easy-to-use Guppy Friend (guppyfriend.com) at Patagonia.com throughout the United States and Europe. Or install a permanent washing machine filter (requires some plumbing expertise), like Wexco’s Filtrol 160 (septicsafe.com/washing-machine-filter).

I admire the leadership Patagonia shows with their corporate ethic and willingness to recognize the impacts their products have, do the research on that impact and look for solutions not only in their manufacturing process but providing ways the end users can mitigate that impact. The least we can do as consumers is educate ourselves and act responsibly. The oceans and their inhabitants will thank us.

Author’s note: this post originally appeared in On the Waterfront the Marine Fish Conservation Network‘s blog.

Articles of interest:

CBS News: How microfibers in clothes are polluting our oceans

BBC: Video captures moment plastic enters food chain

We can clean the ocean: Rachael Miller at TEDxLowell


Joining the Marine Fish Conservation Network

Only where love and need are one, And the work is play for mortal stakes, Is the deed ever really done, For Heaven and the future’s sakes. -Robert Frost

For those who have been following along with my recent move from running the Outdoor Writers Association of America to joining the Marine Fish Conservation Network the Network’s official announcement is posted below. To be paired with Mark Bauman in an announcement is a special honor. Mark as you will see below has an impressive background and I am excited to be working with him.

I have had the opportunity to work with the Network over the years and thrilled to now be part of the team. The way the Network goes about its policy work is important to me. The coalition building, the science-based policy development and the desire to see healthy oceans, productive fisheries and working waterfronts thrive has been the hallmark of the Network advocacy and education. The Network presents a measured and balanced approach. It is that approach the attracted me.

The economic impact of healthy oceans, productive fisheries and working waterfronts is an important component of our nation’s economy. The small businesses that depend on the sea and the people who live, work and play there are an important part of my life.

My mother’s side of the family came from Rhode Island and I still spend time there. I am fishing guide and board member of the American Fly Fishing Trade Association. Those parts of my life have helped me form a deep and abiding interest in seeing our marine resources well cared for now, and into the future.

The ocean, its resources and the people that live, work and play there deserves a strong voice and advocate when it comes to public policy. The Network is that voice.

Marine Fish Conservation Network Welcomes Tom Sadler, New Deputy Director, and Mark Bauman, Board of Directors Member

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: December 12, 2016
Contact: Jo Knight, jo@conservefish.org

ARLINGTON, VA – The Marine Fish Conservation Network announced today the addition of two new members to its leadership team. Tom Sadler, outgoing executive director of the Outdoor Writers Association of America (OWAA), will join the Network as the organization’s deputy director. Mark Bauman, senior vice president of Smithsonian Media, has become the newest member of the Network’s Board of Directors.

“The Network is excited to have Tom Sadler and Mark Bauman become part of the leadership team that helps steer our organization toward achieving healthier oceans and productive fisheries,” said Robert C. Vandermark, executive director of the Network.

Sadler has an extensive history of promoting fisheries conservation through advocacy and communication. In 2008, he started The Middle River Group to provide strategic and tactical public and government relations assistance on conservation issues, especially those related to fish, wildlife and natural resources. He has also served as conservation director for the Izaak Walton League of America and director of program development for the Trust for Public Land. Sadler most recently lead OWAA, the oldest and largest association of professional outdoor communicators in the United States.

“I’m excited to be getting back to my organizing and advocacy roots to push for greater conservation of our marine fisheries,” said Sadler. “I look forward to working with commercial and recreational fishermen, conservationists, and everyone who wants to ensure our fisheries are thriving well into the future.”

“Tom brings exceptional conservation experience, as well as an invaluable perspective, having worked closely with the conservation and outdoors community for most of his career,” Vandermark said. “He truly understands the needs of those who rely on our natural resources.”

Bauman is an award-winning entertainment executive with strong expertise in strategic communications across multiple platforms. In his current role, he oversees the commercial media of the Smithsonian Institution, including Smithsonian Magazine, Air and Space Magazine, Smithsonian Books and Smithsonian.com. Bauman has partnered with numerous conservation nonprofits on messaging for public environmental campaigns. He worked with Ban Ki-moon and the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change to produce the short film that convened the second round of Kyoto Climate Change talks. As part of the executive teams of both Smithsonian and National Geographic, Bauman has had a distinguish and successful career broadening audience reach and expanding organizational presence through digital, print and broadcast. He has earned numerous awards, including an Emmy, Cine Golden Eagles, and several film festival awards. Prior to his time at National Geographic, Bauman worked in television journalism for ABC covering news stories that spanned the globe.

“Marine conservation and the sustainable management of global fish stocks are critically important to the future of our planet,” said Bauman. “It is an honor to join this distinguished board.”

“Mark is an outstanding addition to our Board of Directors, and we are lucky to have his expertise in strategically and creatively communicating to diverse audiences throughout the country,” said Gerry Leape, chair of the Network’s Board of Directors. “We couldn’t be happier that he is joining our team.”

Link below:

Marine Fish Conservation Network Welcomes Tom Sadler, New Deputy Director, and Mark Bauman, Board of Directors Member

A Sea Change

“We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular.” -Edward R. Morrow

This week I let the members and supporters of the Outdoor Writers Association of America know I was leaving my position as Executive Director and going to work for the Marine Fish Conservation Network. It was a difficult decision and one I did not make hastily or lightly, but in the end my heart and Morrow’s words won out.

I need no more reason why than this…

Truth be told the future of our marine resources for my grandchildren and their grandchildren weighed on me. I didn’t want to look back on my life and think I could have done more.

Jim Range and Jean Ince (courtesy of John Ince)

Memories of an old friend, Jim Range, reminded me; “Tommy we have to protect the wild things. If we don’t do it, it won’t get done.

I still have some fight left in me and want to get back in the game more directly.

Here is what I told the OWAA members and supporters:

It has been my pleasure and honor to serve as OWAA’s executive director for almost four years, but the time has come for me to move on. On Jan. 1, 2017, I will return to the advocacy world and join the Marine Fish Conservation Network as deputy director.

I assure you my leaving OWAA has nothing to do with the organization or anyone associated with it, but is solely motivated by my desire to “get back into the fight” and use my advocacy and organizing experience to protect our marine resources and the people that depend on them.

OWAA’s mission has never been more important, but my heart lies elsewhere. I know the organization is stable, has good leaders and will continue quite well without me. With Colleen Miniuk-Sperry taking over my duties, I know the day-to-day operations will continue seamlessly and the membership will be well served. I look forward to seeing and being part of OWAA’s continued success just in a different role as a member and a supporter.

During my time at OWAA I learned that we are a tribe, a guild, the keepers of the flame and take the work as chroniclers seriously. We are, in fact, the Voice of the Outdoors. OWAA is serious about our work as journalists and will vigorously defend the First Amendment. Our Circle of Chiefs are our conservation conscience and continue to remind us of important issues facing the future of the outdoors. And our conference is the best opportunity for liked-minded journalists to gather, learn and share.

Today, more than ever in OWAA’s 90-year history, the work we do as outdoor journalists is critically important, and we need to do it as well as we possibly can. To quote Edward R. Morrow, “We will not be driven by fear into an age of unreason if we dig deep into our history and our doctrine, and remember that we are not descended from fearful men. Not from men who feared to write, to associate, to speak, and to defend the causes that were for the moment unpopular.”

I hope to see many of you in Duluth, Minnesota, Ft. Wayne, Indiana, or at future conferences.