Class of 2013 / Fellowships

Fighting the world’s largest landfill starts at the local level

Out in the North Pacific Ocean, a combination of chemical sludge, plastic and other debris circulate in a slow-moving spiral of currents. This unusually dense patch of man-made marine debris in the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is a problem of international scale.

Mandy Sackett is tackling the issue at the local level.

Mandy Sackett joined the Ocean Protection Council in January 2013 as a California Sea Grant Fellow.

Mandy Sackett joined the Ocean Protection Council in January 2013 as a California Sea Grant Fellow.

The California Sea Grant state fellow at the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) is part of a team working to develop California marine debris initiatives. During the course of her yearlong fellowship, Sackett created and circulated a survey to state agencies and NGOs to get baseline data about what others are already doing to combat litter and prevent marine debris. She determined policy gaps and presented her findings to the council at the end of November.

Sackett also coordinated across the West Coast region on efforts to curb marine debris. As coordinator for the Marine Debris Action Team, she assisted in writing the strategy framework for cooperatively addressing land and ocean generated debris and derelict fishing gear in California, Oregon and Washington and began its implementation.

“On a day-to-day basis, my work varies depending on priorities and deadlines. I organize meetings, coordinate various statewide initiatives, and manage the Marine Debris Database,” Sackett said.

Though Sackett’s efforts have centered on marine debris, the OPC works on a great scope of policy regarding ocean resource management.

“The OPC has several priority issues including ocean acidification, sea level rise, and climate change,” Sackett said.

She says exposure to the policy process from formulation to implementation was the most valuable part of her fellowship experience.

“I was happy to have this opportunity at the OPC because it provided me with a high-level perspective of policy creation. I was able to learn how the process works,” Sackett said. “I suggest that future fellows take advantage of every opportunity to learn about the state government and its processes.”

She plans to stay working in state government after her fellowship concludes in January.

Sackett earned a master’s degree in International Environmental Policy from the Monterey Institute of International Studies in 2012.

The California Sea Grant Fellows Program provides graduate students with educational opportunities and training in marine policy and resource management. Fellows are assigned to a state agency, legislative committee, or office managing marine resource issues.

Written by Caitlin Coomber,

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