Plastic Pollution of the Oceans : A Problem of Immense and Increasing Gravity

We provide here a “Marinet Special” — a collection of articles and films which clearly portray the immense nature of the pollution problem which now confronts the oceans and ourselves due to waste plastics. The portrait is stark, solidly based in science, and deeply worrisome. The solution is possible, but it requires action of a scale and imagination not yet embraced by our society or our economic system.

The items in this Marinet Special are:

1   A report of scientific studies undertaken by Exeter University and Plymouth University which have established for the first time that ingesting micro-plastics can transfer pollutants and additives to worms, reducing health and biodiversitybiodiversity Biological diversity in an environment as indicated by numbers of different species of plants and animals.. Lugworms, and other worms of the sea, are near the base of the marine food chain. Their consumption by seabirds and fish therefore has serous implications for these higher order species, including ourselves, given that these pollutants are bioaccumalitive.
To see this item, titled: “Earthworms of the sea” are being harmed by micro-plastic pollution, click here.


2   A report on scientific research from the USA and UK which reveals that microscopic plastic debris from washing clothes is accumulating in the marine environment and could be entering the food chain. Researchers have traced the “microplastic” back to synthetic clothes, which release up to 1,900 tiny fibres per garment every time they are washed. Earlier research has shown that plastic smaller than 1mm is being eaten by animals and getting into the food chain.
To see this item, titled: Washing each synthetic garment can release “up to 1,900 plastic fibres” into the sea, click here.


3   Photographs, by Chris Jordan, of the death of albatrosses from plastic pollution — does it foretell our fate too? These startling photographs capture the deceased albatross chicks that have washed up on Midway island in the north of the Pacific, their stomachs overflowing with plastic litter. Contrary to received opinion, what has been dubbed “the Pacific garbage patch” is not a vast floating raft of rubbish. The reality is even more insidious. The plastic is all underwater, suspended invisibly below the surface, and breaking apart into smaller and smaller pieces. Much of it has already broken down into tiny fragments about the same size as planktonplankton Plankton is a generic term for a wide variety of the smallest yet most important organisms form that drift in our oceans. They can exist in larger forms of more than 20cm as the larval forms of jellyfish, squid, starfish, sea urchins, etc. and can be algae, bacterial or even viral down to as small as 0.2µm. They are nutrient and light dependent, and form the essential foodchain baseline for larger dependent aquatic lifeforms. Fish species rely on the density and distribution of zooplankton to coincide with first-feeding larvae for good survival of their larvae, which can otherwise starve. Man-made impacts such as dredging, dams on rivers, waste dumping, etc can severely affect zooplankton density and distribution, which can in turn strongly affect larval survival and thus breeding success and stock strength of fish species and the entire ecosystem. They also form the essential basis of CO2 take up in our seas ecosystem, hence Global Warming.. The nesting baby albatrosses are fed bellies-full of plastic by their parents, who soar out over the vast polluted ocean collecting what looks to them like food. Every year tens of thousands of albatross chicks die from starvation, toxicity, and choking.
To see this item, titled: The death of albatrosses from plastic pollution — does it foretell our fate too? click here.


4   “Plastic Bag”, a short film charting the life of a plastic bag from supermarket to the ocean. By American director Ramin Bahrani the film traces the epic, existential journey of a plastic bag (voiced by Werner Herzog) searching for its lost maker, the woman who took it home from the store and eventually discarded it. Along the way, it encounters strange creatures, experiences love in the sky, grieves the loss of its beloved maker, and tries to grasp its purpose in the world. In the end, the wayward plastic bag wafts its way to the ocean, into the tides, and out into the Pacific Ocean trash vortex — a promised nirvana where it will settle among its own kind and gradually let the memories of its maker slip away. It’s only regret is that its “maker” forgot to make it in such a way that it could die, and so is forced to live forever. This short film was short-listed for an award at The Green Film Festival 2013.
To see this item, titled: “Plastic Bag”, a short film charting the life of a plastic bag from supermarket to the ocean, click here.


5   This short film “Synthetic Sea” has been produced by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, USA. “Synthetic Sea” shows how many marine birds and fishes ingest plastic, because it mimics the food they eat, and indicates how plastic pieces can attract and hold hydrophobic elements like PCB and DDT up to one million times background levels. As a result, floating plastic is like a poison pill. “Synthetic Sea” is a documentary based on scientific findings backed by published scientific papers.
To see this item, titled: Film “Synthetic Sea” — how plastics have entered the marine food chain, and the consequences, click here.


6   Film “Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic”. This film, by the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, is in three parts. If your viewing time is limited, we recommend a viewing of the “Synthetic Sea” followed by Part 3 of “Garbage Island”. As Captain Charles Moore, captain of the Agalita Foundation’s research vessel, observes depressingly about the plastic debris: “there is no way you can clean it up”. Gathering in the plastic is beyond all practical bounds, and the plastic in the oceans now will be here for a very long time (possibly centuries). The only solutions are to stop the plastic debris and waste entering into the seas and oceans in the first place; or, to take action to ensure that all man-made plastics are biodegradable. Currently virtually all plastics manufactured are non-biodegradable, with the result that their presence in the oceans is virtually permanent.
To see this item, titled: Film : Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic, click here.

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