There’s no doubt about it: ocean plastic pollution is a big problem. An estimated eight million metric tons of plastic waste flow from land into the ocean every year, meaning that by 2025 there could be one ton of plastic for every three tons of fish! And there’s much more to the problem than floating bags, bottles and fishing nets—as many as 51 trillion pieces of microplastic (plastic pieces less than five mm) now circulate in the ocean.
Big problems call for creative solutions. To truly make an impact in the problem of ocean plastic pollution, we have to attack it from multiple directions. This includes minimizing the amount of plastic waste we create, managing our waste to prevent plastic pollution from leaking into the ocean and mitigating the existing marine debris through active cleanup and restoration efforts.
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An artist’s rendering of poor cod (Trisopterus minutus), one of the fish species studied.
Here’s some sad news from an article to be published in Marine Pollution Bulletin about fish and microplastics in the English Channel. Of the 504 fish collected, 36.5% had plastics in their gastrointestinal tracts. Inhabitat explains,
Not only is this a problem for those that eat the fish, such as humans, but the research team believe that the accumulation of plastic in fish could block the animals’ digestive systems and even cause fish to stop eating.
In a statement, Richard Thompson from Plymouth University said: “We don’t need to have plastic debris in the sea. These materials are inherently very recyclable, but regrettably they’ve been at the heart of our throw-away culture for the last few decades. We need to recognise the value of plastics at the end of their lives and need help from industry and manufacturers to widen the potential for every day products to be reusable and recyclable.”
Read more from Inhabitat or view the report in full.
Sand or plastic? At “Junk Beach” on Kamilo Point in Hawaii, it can be hard to tell. Credit: Nicholas Mallos
I’m not a morning person; so 4:30 am wakeups are not my idea of a good time. But increasingly my alarm seems to be going off around this time because tides don’t care about my sleep schedule. Plus, the most severely littered beaches are almost always found on remote coastlines where cleanups cannot easily occur. Kamilo Point, known to many as “Junk Beach,” is perhaps the best example of this in the world.
After a 2 hour drive through the heart of Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park, we arrived in Naalehu where we were greeted by members of Hawaii Wildlife Fund (HWF). No organization knows about marine debris on the Big Island better than HWF. Funded by NOAA’s Marine Debris Program, HWF has spent countless hours removing debris from Hawai’i’s South Point coastline—more than 240,000 pounds since 2003.
From Naalehu, it’s about four miles to Kamilo Point. No problem, right? Not so much…this four mile trip takes about an hour, most of which is spent driving—cautious not to blow a tire or axle—on what is the bumpiest, ruttiest, rockiest road in the world and I challenge anyone to prove me otherwise. A pair of humpback whales spouting off the coast and a green sea turtle spotting made the bumpfest a bit more bearable, but I was delighted to finally arrive at our sandy destination.
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