Skip to comments.Plastic Trash Vortex Menaces Pacific Sealife
Posted on 11/07/2006 2:20:00 AM PST by Einigkeit_Recht_Freiheit
WASHINGTON Old toothbrushes, beach toys and used condoms are part of a vast vortex of plastic trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean, threatening sea creatures that get tangled in it, eat it or ride on it, a new report says.
Because plastic doesn't break down the way organic material does, ocean currents and tides have carried it thousands of miles to an area between Hawaii and the U.S. West Coast, according to the study by the international environmental group Greenpeace.
This swirling vortex, which can grow to be about the size of Texas, is not far from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, designated as a protected U.S. national monument in June by President Bush.
The Greenpeace report, "Plastic Debris in the World's Oceans" said at least 267 species -- including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish -- are known to have suffered from entanglement or ingestion of marine debris.
Some 80 percent of this debris comes from land and 20 percent from the oceans, the report said, with four main sources: tourism, sewage, fishing and waste from ships and boats.
The new report comes days after the journal Science projected that Earth's stocks of fish and seafood would collapse by 2048 if trends in overfishing and pollution continue.
Two weeks ago, the U.S. Institute of Medicine said the benefits of eating fish outweigh the risks of toxins detected in the animals.
STOMACHS FILLED WITH PLASTIC
Plastic pollution is a problem in all the world's oceans, the Greenpeace report said, but underlined the issue in the Pacific by sailing through the floating garbage dump and capturing images of wildlife interacting with plastic.
"It's not necessarily an area that's clearly defined; it's sort of a natural phenomenon ... wind and salt water break down the plastic," said Steve Smith, aboard the Greenpeace ship Esperanza.
The plastic trash, some in large pieces and others broken down to small but recognizable particles, is visible from the ship's deck, about 50 feet above the ocean surface, Smith said by telephone Friday. Inflatable boats are dispatched from the ship to collect samples.
"We've been been unfortunately finding a lot of stuff out here, floating by, which doesn't paint a very good picture, because some of it is from faraway places, has marine life like barnacles and other little creatures living on the plastic," Smith said.
By hitching rides on plastic debris, invasive species can be carried thousands of miles to interact with native creatures, Smith said. Plastic also poses a hazard to animals that mistake it for prey and eat it, he said.
"Plastics in the oceans act as a toxic sponge, soaking up a lot of the persistent pollutants out here," Smith said. "We've seen photos of albatrosses who eat this plastic ... Even though their stomachs are filled, they end up starving because there's no nutrients in there."
Discarded or lost fishing nets and traps can continue to catch fish when they are no longer in use, the report said.
The report said an international agreement known as MARPOL is aimed at ending the dumping of plastic debris at sea, but noted that since most debris originates on land, even total enforcement of this agreement would not eliminate the problem.
Greenpeace called for a global network of marine reserves, covering 40 percent of the world's oceans, and responsibility by coastal countries to cut down on "excessive consumption" and boost recycling.
We are trashing our lovely planet and it seems like the wacky left is the only ones that want to do anything about it. Of course, they just want to use it as an excuse to take power, but there is no real action coming from the right on this type of thing and there should be.
As the article rightly mentions Bush (who has done more for the environment than Clinton/Gore ever did) recognizes the need to protect marine habitat. But shouldn't Christian groups also be protecting God's creation and promoting market mechanisms?
Or are the rapture nuts really that ones calling the shots?
"Rapture Nuts" huh? That should win you some support! lol
I saw that and thought it was about Pelosi for a sec.
I thought that the big scare last week was that there was going to be no sea life left anyway in thirty years time.
This line alone cast serious doubt on the whole piece......then there are your comments about Christian groups......
The exact words that came to mind when I saw this pic...
Pay attention! You really must learn to read these hit pieces. They always contain the seeds of their own destruction. Here are a few.
One - "A vast vortex the size of Texas." That is an area less than .01% of the world's oceans. Not significant.
Two - "Debris contains hitchhikers invading the seas." How can it be invading the seas when it is confined to a vortex? Is plastic the only vehicle they have for their invasion?
Three - "Plastics act as toxic sponges." This is bad how?
Four - "Plastic is consumed by 247 species." Does this include barnacles and algae?
Five - All plastics break down in a few months when subjected to sunlight and saltwater. This is not a cumulative problem.
Those are a few. Other freepers will find more and better. Try to avoid the chicken lickin (the sky is falling) crowd.
Take a look at a major US river after a good rainstorm upstream. The amount of plastic pop bottles alone is enough to make you sick.
We can do better.
You mean that I think Christian groups should care about this? What is wrong with that. Seems sensible since God gave man this planet to care for.
The reality on the "no fish left" front is that fish stocks do collapse if you overfish them.
Currently we are overfishing most fish stocks.
Ergo, if we keep overfishing them, they will collapse.
Plus, the market says, the more scarce something is the higher the price. If fish become scarce, the price goes up and the incentive to catch more goes up. Tragedy of the commons at its best.
Two possible solutions:
1. Massive government regulation and enforcement
I will take the latter. And you?
Wonder if Greenpeace took a shipload of plastic into the ocean so they could, ah, study it?
But also, the incentive to buy them goes down and it makes fish farming more viable.
Fish farming is a way to get fish, but naturally you also realize that fish farming is merely a transfer of food (i.e. we grow grain and feed it to fish) rather than food production with nature provides for free like the oceans.
Since several billion people rely on fish for their protein, having to farm grain and then farm fish is much less efficient and intelligent use of resources than limiting "wild" fishing to a sustainable harvest.
Don't ya think?
I don't know about the plastic vortex, but I'm disgusted by all the plastic I find on beaches and other watersheds. Of course it's a hazard to wildlife. We need a rapidly biodegradable plastic and better disposal practices.
If it's in one big pile, why doesn't someone start scooping it up?
I suspect this vast vortex is about as real as the vast right wing conspiracy.
On another note, however, I hate looking at trash. I am disgusted by the trashier elements of our culture that think nothing of dropping their soda bottles and cans on the ground.
I should have included a link for the song...
(Hit "play the song")...
first time I've seen a picture of jabba the hut in a suit.
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