Understanding the Plastic Garbage Problem in our Oceans
1) The oceans occupy nearly 71% of our planet's surface.
2) More than 97% of the planet's water is contained in the ocean.
3) Fish supply the greatest percentage of the world's protein consumed by humans.
4) Each year some 70 to 75 million tons of fish are caught in the ocean.
5) The global fish production exceeds that of cattle, sheep, poultry or eggs.
6) Phytoplankton in our oceans contributes 50 to 85 percent of the oxygen in Earth’s atmosphere.
The Environmental Problems
The plastic pollution problem of our oceans is becoming a situation we can no longer turn away from. The bottom of our food chain is going through a catastrophic collapse; sea creatures are dying in massive numbers.
In early 2015, Federal regulators announced an emergency closure of sardine fisheries in California, Oregon and Washington. According to the most recent data, the sardine populations have declined 91% in just the last eight years. The cause of the problem is a mystery to scientists who claim that they can’t pinpoint how or why it’s happening.
An estimated 245 million tons of plastic are in the oceans and 8 million pounds of trash enter the world’s oceans every year. The majority of garbage is found floating in one of the five major ocean gyres around the world. These massive, slowly rotating gyres are result of ocean currents converging in such ways that they create these colossal oceanic vortices.
The vortex most concentrated with plastics, North Pacific Gyre, consists of two smaller gyres, the Eastern and Western referred to as The Great Ocean Garbage Patch.
The Eastern gyre was discovered by Captain Charles Moore, sailing from the Hawaiian Islands to Northern California in 1997. Concerned by what he discovered, he rigged up his sail boat and returned to the Eastern gyre to retrieve samples. Captain Moore’s research revealed some very alarming facts. Samples taken in 1999 revealed 6 times more plastic particles than plankton. Samples in 2009 revealed 46 times more plastic particles than plankton. Captain Moore’s latest voyage in 2014 revealed, 100 times more plastic particles than plankton.
The Plastic Problem
Plastic is not biodegradable. It literally lasts forever. However, while plastic doesn't biodegrade, it does photo-degrade.
UV light from the sun breaks the plastic down into even smaller pieces, known as micro-plastics. Micro-plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces that are increasingly harder to clean up. Research is revealing that some of these small pieces eventually sink to the bottom of the ocean.
Plastics are Killing Life in the Oceans
This photo-degradation continues right down to the microscopic level, where we can't even see the individual pieces of plastic with the naked eye. Instead, we see this viscous toxic sludge where water should be.
We are not only polluting our oceans, we are actually changing the chemical composition of them as a whole.
These micro-plastics act like sponges. They soak up and retain all kinds of toxic chemicals, such as DDT and PCBs.
Unable to distinguish their food from these micro-plastics littering our ocean, many marine animals end up dying with bellies so full of plastic that no food can pass through them. They literally starve to death with full stomachs.
Every year over 1 million sea birds and hundreds of thousands of marine animals; Turtles, Dolphins, Fish and Whales die from plastic ingestion.