Friday, August 16, 2019

“A pound at a time”: Local man brings awareness to the value of clean water

Michael Fitzgibbons at the 4Ocean promotion
By Lorraine Glowczak

Through the efforts of many individuals, positive changes happen in the world. Most often, the projects or endeavors are completed in small scale ways when time permits between work, school, social and family activities. This service to community and beyond is admirable – and is needed.

But occasionally, an individual comes along whose passion to create positive change is so intense, it
becomes their life’s mission – making other everyday activities secondary. One such person who is making an impact on the waters of Sebago Lake and beyond is Michael Fitzgibbons. His mission?

“I am proposing a water resource initiative to call attention to the ocean plastic situation and the value of water to the State of Maine,” stated Fitzgibbons. “And, we must start right here, in the Sebago Lakes Region. We are so lucky to have such a wonderful clean water source, but if we aren’t paying enough attention and ignore the trash in the ocean – it will eventually affect us and our water.”

Inspired by two Florida surfers, Andrew Cooper and Alex Shulz, who are co-founders of 4Ocean, Fitzgibbon is taking their mission and spreading it to Maine. Briefly, and according to“Alex and Andrew [who is also a fisherman] take a surf trip to Bali Indonesia that would inevitably change their lives and the fate of the ocean. Devastated by the amount of plastic in the ocean, they set out to find out why no one was doing anything about it. One afternoon they came across an old fishing village where fishermen were literally pushing their boat through piles of plastic that had washed up on shore. The two surfers realized that the proliferation of plastic threatened both the ocean environment and the fishermen's livelihood. Could the fishermen use their nets, they wondered, to pull the plastic from the ocean? This idea stuck with the two surfers and they knew it was time to hit the drawing board. After realizing that the demand for seafood was driving the fishermen to focus on fish instead of plastic, they knew they had to create something that could fund the desired cleanup

Their efforts have also inspired others to act. In addition to the 4Ocean U.S.A. organization, there is now a 4Ocean Bali and 4Ocean Haiti. “My goal is to create a 4Ocean Maine with the hope that it will spread to other states and countries,” Fitzgibbons said of his personal mission.

The acronym for O.C.E.A.N. stands for the following:

Optimizing Technology – with the goal to utilize the latest technology to prevent, intercept, and remove trash from the ocean and coastlines.
Creating Jobs – Currently, there are full-time captains and crews that are cleaning the ocean and coastlines 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
Education and Awareness – The goal is to educate individuals, corporations, and governments on the impact that plastic has on the ocean. Hosting cleanups all over the world, both above and below the water, to raise awareness and change behavior.
New Global Economies -By giving ocean plastic a value, we are creating a new economy for the removal of trash.

“This is a lofty project,” Fitzgibbons began. “The opportunity represents a chance for the State of Maine to shine like a bright lighthouse to the world by bringing business and people together for the purpose of saying: ‘Enough, we need to clean up our plastic in the ocean’.”

Flying the 4Ocean banner in their amphibicar
Fitzgibbons is bringing about this awareness through a variety of efforts that he refers to as, “guerrilla marketing” - an unconventional form of inbound marketing, that raises brand awareness among large audiences, without interrupting them. This includes a variety of waterway adventures while spreading the word via social media production with video.  “As the journey progresses on the lakes and waterways, we will be delving into conversation with people everywhere and heightening the efforts of all the groups interested in protecting the water at home in the state of Maine.”

With the help of video production expert, Scott Shaffer, Fitzgibbons will trace his many journeys and awareness trips by traveling down the Lakes Region watersheds and beyond in a jet ski, paddle board, or boat while meeting people and sharing the mission and ideals of 4Ocean. On August 27, he will travel the heads of the Sebago to the Sea Trail. It water adventure will trace the Presumpscot River to the river's mouth in Falmouth.  “I will be in the hands of The Presumpscot Regional Land Trust for this trek. Weather permitting, the goal is to travel and do some filming along the trail – with the intention of bringing about awareness about the clean water we have now and ways to prevent it from being impotable.”

Another event is to be scheduled for Saturday August 24 from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. This will be a land event held at Hayes True Value Hardware Store in Bridgton. “Come learn how two guys are cleaning the ocean one pound at a time.”

The revenue for this 4Ocean effort is fueled with the sale of $20-dollar bracelets made of recycled plastic. The purchase of one bracelet results in hauling out a pound of plastic from the ocean. 
If you are interested in supporting 4Ocean and helping Fitzgibbons’ mission to keep our waterways and oceans clean, you can purchase a bracelet by contacting him at thank you to the following volunteers and donors:

Dingley’s Wharf/ watersport team under Wayne, Brother Flecker’s, Patti, Sam, Jake, Sue, Scott  rang it out on the mic.
Schaeffer (Audio Therapy), Sue Santoro/Seasonal Resident, Virginia Fitzgibbons, Michael Fitzgibbons (Locations Real Estate Group) The 4Ocean Pop Up Event held last weekend at the Mountainview Wood Boat and Car show was ideal. Dingley’s Wharf and Brother Flecker’s provided spaces. Jon the MC

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