Charitable Choices: Lasse Gustavsson, President and CEO of Ocean Wise

Ocean Wise is a non-profit organization which aims to protect and restore marine species for ocean health and sustainable food sources. We spoke with Lasse Gustavsson, President and CEO, to find out more about them.

Ocean Wise

Describe your charity/non-profit in a few sentences.

Ocean Wise is a nonprofit organization whose mission is to empower communities and individuals to take action to protect and restore our world’s oceans. To help achieve this, we deliver direct action initiatives such as the Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup, a conservation program that provides Canadians across the country the opportunity to help protect waterways in their community, one bit of trash at a time.

What problem does it aim to solve?

Over 13 million tonnes of plastic end up in the ocean each year. Researchers are finding more and more plastic every time they look – from deep-sea sediment to the ocean surface. From the North Pole to the intestines of beluga whales. Plastic pollution is damaging the marine environment, harming more than 800 marine species, and reducing the ocean’s ability to combat climate change. The Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup is a conservation program that provides families, businesses and community groups with the opportunity to take action to help protect waterways in their community, one bit of trash at a time. Since 1994, the Shoreline Cleanup has inspired nearly 1,000,000 volunteers, hosted 30,542 cleanups, collecting more than 2.1 million kilograms of trash across Canada’s shorelines.

When did you start/join it?

I was recruited to join Ocean Wise in 2019 when the Vancouver Aquarium set its sights on becoming a globally-focused ocean conservation group. Since that time we’ve seen many changes, including the sale of the aquarium, and we are now on the path to making that goal a reality.

What made you want to get involved?

The ocean is the world’s greatest asset. It gives us food, water and clean energy. Sadly, we’re not doing a good job of caring for the ocean in return, and pollution is taking a devastating toll on the health of the ocean’s life-sustaining waters.

Ocean Wise provides everyday citizens as well as businesses and governments with the opportunity to take action in their communities and enact real change for ocean health and the planet. Through our collective actions, we will give our ocean the chance to rebuild and flourish. We need the ocean and the ocean needs us.

What was the situation like when you started?

Plastic pollution has been a critical issue for ocean health for decades.

How has it changed since?

The problem with plastic is us. Because it is cheap to produce, we’ve become addicted to plastic. And due to its composition, all plastic ever manufactured still exists in some form. More than 40 percent of plastic produced is designed for single use, and Canadians use an astounding 4.6 million metric tonnes of plastic each year.

The recently introduced ban on single-use plastics from the Canadian Government is a good step in the right direction. Businesses working with NGOs and governments can kill the unnecessary single-use plastics market in six months. This would measurably improve our oceans and help us fight climate change.

What more needs to be done?

We’ve seen nearly one million volunteers participate in a Shoreline Cleanup since 1994, collecting more than 2.1 million kilograms of trash across Canada’s shorelines!

This is an enormous accomplishment, but there’s more to be done. We’re calling for one million more volunteers to take direct action and join an Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup by the end of 2025. To address the urgency of the situation, we’re challenging one million volunteers to join us in beating this achievement by recovering the same quantity of litter in a fraction of the time.

Our shorelines need your help. Register to lead or join a cleanup in your neighbourhood today, and receive comprehensive guidance on how to volunteer. Not only will you help keep your community clean, but the data on the litter you collect will also be used by researchers and policymakers to help reduce plastic pollution at its source.

How can our readers help?

There are many ways anyone can make an impact with the Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup.

Register to attend one of our special events in Toronto, Vancouver, or Halifax on International Coastal Cleanup Day.

Sign up to lead a Shoreline Cleanup in your community here.

Register to join an existing cleanup in your neighbourhood here.

Visit our website to learn about other ways you can get involved.

Do you have any events coming up?

One of the best parts about the Ocean Wise Shoreline Cleanup is that it’s possible to pitch in and participate in the program all year long. You can take direct action by signing up to lead a Shoreline Cleanup or registering to join an existing cleanup at shorelinecleanup.org.

Ocean Wise also has a number of exciting events that take place throughout the year.

Where can we follow you?

Follow Ocean Wise on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn or visit our website to learn about other ways you can take direct action to protect ocean health.

PAY IT FORWARD: What is an awesome local charity that you love?

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