NDP MP Gord Johns gains approval for motion to eventually eliminate plastic pollution in marine environments

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      Anyone who's heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch understands the threat that plastics are posing to creatures that live in the oceans.

      That area of water between Hawaii and California has accumulated more than 1.8 trillion pieces weighing more than 80,000 tonnes, according to a paper published earlier this year in the scientific journal Nature.

      The Center for Biological Diversity points out on its website that at current rates, the amount of plastic is "expected to outweigh all the fish in the sea by 2050".

      This issue has caught the attention of Gord Johns, the NDP MP for Courtenay-Alberni. And yesterday, he managed to secure unanimous support in the House of Commons for his private member's motion to reduce and hopefully eliminate plastic pollution in marine environments.

      "The passage of this motion with a unanimous vote is a tremendous victory for our oceans and coastal communities," Johns said on the NDP website. "It is a firm acknowledgement that direct and immediate action is required to fill the legislative and regulatory void related to marine plastic pollution in Canada."

      Johns was influenced by a comprehensive report, Seven Reforms to Address Marine Plastic Pollution, which was written last year by student Meaghan Partridge and released by the University of Victoria's Environmental Law Centre.

      Her supervisor was ELC legal director Calvin Sandborn and it was prepared for the T. Buck Suzuki Foundation.

      "Every year plastic litter kills one million seabirds and 100,000 turtles and marine mammals such as dolphins, whales, and seals," Partridge wrote, citing a document from the government of Western Australia.

      Last year, NDP MP Gord Johns grilled the Liberals in Parliament for not paying sufficient attention to ocean pollution.

      Partridge's report also pointed out that up to 20 million tons of debris is dumped into oceans every year (citing a figure from the U.S. Natural Resources Defense Council's Leila Monroe).

      "On average," Partridge noted, "there is more than one piece of plastic litter for every square metre of shoreline around the world."

      The motion by Johns drew on the UVIC study in identifying necessary actions, including reducing debris from stormwater outfalls eliminating the single use of plastic products.

      Johns also wants funding programs for cleaning up fishing gear, community-led projects to remove plastics and other garbage from areas near aquatic environments, and more public education.

      "This is the first step in the journey to rid our oceans, beaches, and shores of plastic and other debris," Johns said.