Thursday, September 3, 2009

If It Is Thursday It's Going Green - Plastics in the Ocean

Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch Worries Researchers

This photo shows the 'island' of garbage in the Pacific Ocean

Pacific Ocean garbage patch worries researchers
Updated: August 27, 2009

It's one of the bigger pieces of trash in a giant patch of garbage-littered water - one that's bigger than Texas - where most of the plastic looks like snowy confetti against the deep blue of the north Pacific Ocean.

But most of the trash in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has broken into bite-sized plastic bits, and scientists want to know whether it's sickening or killing the small fish, plankton and birds that ingest it.

While scientists have documented trash's harmful effects for coastal marine life, there's little research on garbage patches, which were first explored extensively by self-trained ocean researcher Charles Moore just a decade ago. There's also scant research on the marine life at the bottom of the food chain that inhabit the patch.

But even the weather-beaten, sun bleached plastic flakes that are smaller than a thumbnail can be alarming. "They're the right size to be interacting with the food chain out there," Goldstein said.

Plastic sea trash does not biodegrade and often floats at the surface. Bottle caps, bags and wrappers that end up in the ocean from the wind or through overflowing sewage systems can then drift thousands of miles.

The sheer quantity of plastic that accumulates in the North Pacific Gyre, a vortex formed by ocean and wind currents and located 1,000 miles off the California coast, has the scientists worried about how it might harm the sea creatures there.
Plastics have entangled birds and turned up in the bellies of fish, and one paper cited by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimates 100,000 marine mammals die trash-related deaths each year.

The scientists hope their data gives clues as to the density and extent of marine debris, especially since the Great Pacific Garbage Patch may have company in the Southern Hemisphere, where scientists say the gyre is four times bigger.

Only humans are to blame for ocean debris, Goldstein said. In a blog entry posted a day before the science ship arrived in Newport, Ore., she wrote the research showed her the consequences of humanity's footprint on nature.

"Seeing that influence just floating out here in the middle of nowhere makes our power painfully obvious, and the consequences of the industrial age plain," she wrote. "It's not a pretty sight."


I read this article in the paper this week. The words that stood out to me are
'100,000 marine mammals die trash-related deaths each year.' and
'Only humans are to blame for ocean debris.'

What more evidence do we need to understand that the use of plastic bags and bottles, etc., are harmful to humans, wildlife, and the environment?

I urge you to reduce your use of these items.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

I share your concern about this problem and wrote about it on my blog under the heading 'Mermaid's Tears', which is what the small particles of plastic are called.

Before I wrote that blog I was buying a bottle of water a day, because I don't like the water that comes out of my tap (it comes from a tank and I don't really trust it). I now use a Brita walter filter.

The more people know about this problem, the better.