Monday, May 19, 2008

Down to the Plastic-Shiny Sea

No wine-dark sea anymore, at least in the gigantic (and growing) dead zone of plastic garbage in the Pacific Ocean. I found the Globe & Mail piece today quite disturbing - here are a few excerpts.

"This plastic soup, with billions of tiny shards of the synthetic material floating just below the surface of the water, is estimated to span an area 11/2 times the size of the continental United States.

"The United Nations estimates that each square kilometre of ocean carries 13,000 pieces of debris, but this area in the north Pacific has something like 330,000 pieces per square kilometre.

"Hundreds of myctophids, or lantern fish, were collected during the excursion. All of them had dozens of bits of broken plastic in their stomachs. Some pieces were five millimetres in diameter, much too large to pass through the systems of the tiny creatures.
They are the most plentiful fish in the ocean, making up about 90 per cent of all deep-sea fish. They are a major source of food for larger fish, such as tuna, and other marine creatures, including dolphins, whales and sharks.
With the amount of plastic in that part of the ocean outweighing plankton six to one, the effects have been deadly.

"The United Nations Environment Program says plastic accounts for the deaths of more than a million seabirds and more than 100,000 marine mammals such as whales, dolphins and seals every year. Countless fish, it says, die either from mistakenly eating the plastic or from becoming entangled in it and drowning.
Seabird species also dying in scores include albatrosses and fulmars.
A Dutch study of fulmars in the North Sea found 95 per cent had plastic in their stomachs. More than 1,600 pieces of plastic were found in the stomach of a bird in Belgium.

"Smaller pieces of plastic resemble fish eggs to the birds, while the larger pieces, like toothbrushes and toy soldiers, look like rocks that they often swallow to help grind up their food."