An Island of Plastic in the Pacific
My attention was drawn to the issue of an Island of Plastic in the Pacific a few weeks ago. I have to admit that I was not aware of the immensity of this problem before this. Have I been this blind?
‘The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also described as the Eastern Garbage Patch or the Pacific Trash Vortex, is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135° to 155°W and 35° to 42°N and estimated to be twice the size of Texas.’ Wikipedia
Being a lover of any coastline and having spent a lot of time on various beaches around the world why should I be so surprized by this. My attention has long been drawn to the rubbish that is washed up on the shores of our beaches but to think there might actually be an Island floating in the ocean had not entered into my consciousness. To say I was amazed was indeed an understatement.
Riding on the London Underground yesterday I was reminded of the ‘floating Island’ from an article written in one of the free London newspapers – The Metro, November 25th 2009, article by Lindsey Hoshaw. The ‘gyre’ is an area of heavy currents and slack winds that keep the rubbish trapped in an enormous whirlpool. Now try not to imagine an Island with boundries that you can walk on, after all the ocean is a fluid medium and apparantly most pieces are not much bigger than a grain of rice although shoe soles, plastic buckets, patio chairs etc. are also visible. It seems that most items have been washed out to sea from storm drains, while the rest is made up from fishing gear abandoned in the ocean.
The toxins leached out of the plastic are being ingested by fish and birds and of course we are further down the food chain also then absorbing these toxins indirectly.http://news.nationalgeographic.com/news/2009/08/090820-plastic-decomposes-oceans-seas.html
The gyre was discovered by US sea captain Charles Moore in 1997. The problem was largely ignored until now as the Island has doubled in size.
Moore and his Algalita Foundation have dedicated their time and resources to understanding and looking for solutions to this problem. He is quite certain there are more patches out there.
The problem is indeed a huge one in the scheme of things. The wild life that thrives on the plankton in the area is ingesting the plastic and contaminating the stomach space that should be used for food for chicks. Turtles are choking on plastic bags. Sea Turtles are amazingly beautiful creatures and I wasn’t aware, until I read the Metro article, that they are responsible for helping to keep tropical beaches free of deadly box jellyfish which are toxic to humans but the Turtles are unaffected by their sting.
So for those of us who love to visit tropical beaches and swim in the warm ocean currents please think of this the next time you go to the grocery store and forget your reusable non-plastic bag.
Everything we do is significant no matter how small or large it may seem.