Plastic pollution in our oceans

The name Pacific Garbage Patch, also called the Pacific Trash Vortex, has led many to believe that this area is a large and continuous patch of easily visible marine debris items such as bottles and other litter, much like an island of trash that should be visible with satellite or aerial photographs. While higher concentrations of litter items can be found in this area, along with other debris such as derelict fishing nets, much of the debris is actually small pieces of floating plastic that are not immediately evident to the naked eye.

The debris is continuously mixed by wind and wave action and widely dispersed both over huge surface areas and throughout the top portion of the water column. It is possible to sail through the “garbage patch” area and see very little or no debris on the water’s surface. It is also difficult to estimate the size of these patches, because the borders and content constantly change with ocean currents and winds.

https://youtube.com/watch?v=StNZ3XUBDYw%3Frel%3D0

The size of the patch is unknown, because large items readily visible from a boat deck are uncommon. Most debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the surface, making it impossible to detect by aircraft or satellite. Instead, the size of the patch is determined by sampling. Estimates of size range from 700,000 square kilometers (about the size of Texas, USA) to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (0.4% to 8% of the size of the Pacific Ocean).

Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine animals, and their young, including sea turtels and the black-footed albatross. The Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the patch. Of the 1.5 million Laysan albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are found to have plastic in their digestive system. Approximately one-third of their chicks die, and many of those deaths are due to being fed plastic from their parents. Twenty tons of plastic debris washes up on Midway every year with five tons of that debris being fed to albatross chicks.

Besides the particle’s danger to wildlife, on the microscopic level the floating debris can absorb organic pollutants from seawater, including PCBs, DDT and PAHs. Aside from toxic effects when ingested, some of these can cause hormone disruption in the affected animal. These toxin-containing plastic pieces are also eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by larger fish. Many of these fishes are then consumed by humans, resulting in their ingestion of toxic chemicals.

Here’s an article from The Guardian worth reading: https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2016/sep/14/extinction-let-others-kill-albatross-gorilla-whale-shark-conumerism?CMP=share_btn_link