3 March 2013

plastic ocean

(from: Green and Healthy Living, undated)

Real and Potential Harm to our Ecosystem:

A study in 1975 showed that 8 million pounds of plastic were dumped into our oceans annually (~10% of which consisted of plastic shopping bags). Scientists note that the amount of plastic particles in the oceans has at least tripled since the 1960s. The Great Pacific or Eastern Garbage Patch is an area of marine debris in the central North Pacific Ocean that stretches across ~537,640 square miles or 1,392,400 km2 (about twice the size of Texas). This is literally a floating landfill where garbage concentratres in certain areas guided by circular ocean currents. This is only ONE such gyre -- there are 8 others that have become accumulation zones for plastic debris. Many link the following phenomenon to marine garbage ...

Loss of Fish and all Life that Depends on Fish : 90% of worldwide stocks of tuna, cod and other big fish have disappeared in the last 50 years. Both people and many animals depend on fish as a source of nutrition ...

Dr. Boris Worm of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia. warns that unless major changes are implemented, we can expect to see the world’s oceans empty of commercial fish by 2048. The consequences for marine ecosystems could be devastating to the future of life across the world's oceans.

A drastic increase of red tide as well as other toxic algae and bacteria in our oceans. The major effect of red tides are the associated wildlife mortalities among marine and coastal species of fish, birds, marine mammals and other organisms.

Increasingly acid seawater that is threatening fish, coral and other marine life. Our oceans are turning into vinegar! 75 percent of all kelp forests have disappeared in the last 50 years

Chemicals found in many plastics act independently and together to adversely affect human, animal and environmental health.

Effects on our wildlife ...

Floating garbage is not only polluting our world's oceans and coastlines, but it is posing a serious threat to fish, seabirds, marine reptiles, and marine mammals. According to U.N. Secretary-General Kofi Annan, it is killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 mammals and sea turtles each year.

Wildlife is injured or killed by entanglement or indigestion of plastics

In the ocean, plastic pieces are easily mistaken for zooplankton and fish eggs (primary food sources for oceanlife), and end up in the stomachs of fish, birds and other oceanlife.

In April 2007, Dutch scientists released a report on litter in the North Sea and found that fulmars, a type of seagull, had an average of 30 pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

Plastic bags, bottle tops and polystyrene foam coffee cups are often found in the stomachs of dead sea lions, dolphins, sea turtles, seabirds, and others.

In samples taken from the gyre in 2001, the mass of plastic exceeded that of zooplankton (a primary food source) by a factor of seven. Scientists anticipate a 60:1 ratio by the year 2010.

Many people have seen photographs of seals trapped in nets or strangled by plastic six-pack rings, or sea turtles feeding on plastic shopping bags.

Besides ingestion and entanglement of wildlife, the floating debris can absorb persistent organic pollutants from seawater.

Hideshige Takada, an environmental geochemist at Tokyo University, and his colleagues have discovered that plastic polymers are sponges and couriers of waste chemicals called "persistent organic pollutants" or POPs, which include known carcinogens such as DDT, PCBs and other pollutants and toxins.

These toxins latch on to plastic polymers that are commonly used in consumer products and that are “photodegrading” in our environment (they break up into progressively smaller pieces - referred to as "nurdles").

When ingested, some of these are mistaken by the endocrine system as estradiol, causing hormone disruption.

As sealife mistakes the plastic pieces for food and ingest them, the chemicals and toxins in the plastic pass into the food web that may lead to our dinner table.

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