Qawalangin Tribe, Alaska

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A quick inventory of Front Beach here comes up with some pretty strange stuff old shoe soles, Christmas wrapping paper and even a beat-up stereo speaker. "You scratch your head and wonder, 'How did this get here?"' said Emily Morgan, director of citizen outreach and monitoring for the Center for Marine Conservation, based in Washington, D.C. Older elementary school students from Unalaska City School helped inventory the trash from the beach a couple of weeks ago. Similar efforts are underway in other coastal communities to develop a snapshot of the world's trash production and how to better keep it out of the ocean. The center study looks primarily at plastics, illegal to dump since 1988. Since plastics survive almost indefinitely, it's been hard to gauge if new laws have much impact. The tribe joined the effort because of concerns about the health of local waters. Marine mammals, often harvested as subsistence foods, are particularly vulnerable to sea pollution. About 80 percent of the inventoried Unalaska trash was old nets and rope used by the fishing industry. "The Aleutians almost act like a sieve or comb for everything that is floating in open ocean," Morgan reported.