Please select your home edition
Edition
Ancasta Ker 33 728x90

Ocean Plastic - it's drastic!

by Jeni Bone on 14 May 2011
Sea plastic .. ©
A recent UN Environment Program, report, known as 'Yearbook for 2011', described marine plastics as the world's new toxic time-bomb. According to UN scientists, in addition to entangling wildlife, or being mistaken for food, floating plastics accumulate and concentrate chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenols (PCBs) and the pesticide DDT, which make their way in to the food chain and affect all living creatures, marine and man.

If plastic doesn’t biodegrade, what does it do? It 'photo-degrades' – a process in which it is broken down by sunlight into smaller and smaller pieces, all of which are still plastic polymers, eventually becoming individual molecules of plastic, still too tough for anything to digest. For the last fifty-odd years, every piece of plastic that has made it from our shores to the Pacific Ocean, has been breaking down and accumulating in the central Pacific gyre. Oceanographers like Curtis Ebbesmeyer, the world’s leading flotsam expert, refer to it as the great Pacific Garbage Patch. The problem is that it is not a patch, it’s the size of a continent, and it’s filling up with floating plastic waste.

According to the UN report, around 80% of marine debris is from land-based sources and the remaining 20% is from ocean based sources.The sources can be categorised into four major groups:

• Tourism related litter at the coast: this includes litter left by beach goers such as food and beverage packaging, cigarettes and plastic beach toys.
• Sewage-related debris: this includes water from storm drains and combined sewer overflows which discharge waste water directly into the sea or rivers during heavy rainfall. These waste waters carry with them garbage such as street litter, condoms and syringes.
• Fishing related debris: this includes fishing lines and nets, fishing pots and strapping bands from bait boxes that are lost accidentally by commercial fishing boats or are deliberately dumped into the ocean
• Wastes from ships and boats: this includes garbage which is accidentally or deliberately dumped overboard. Huge volumes of non-organic wastes, including plastics and synthetics, are produced in more developed, industrialised countries. Conversely, in less developed and more rural economies, generally a much smaller amount of these non-biodegradable persistent wastes are produced. However, in the future, as less developed countries become more industrialised, it is likely that they will also produce more plastic and synthetic wastes and this will increase further the threat of pollution of the marine environment.

Says Captain Charles Moore who ventures frequently into that part of the Pacific aboard Oceanographic Research Vessel, Alguita (Alguita.com, Algalita.org) 'It’s not just entanglement and indigestion that are problems caused by plastic debris. There is a darker side to pollution of the ocean by ubiquitous plastic fragments.

'As these fragments float around, they accumulate the poisons we manufacture for various purposes that are not water-soluble. It turns out that plastic polymers are sponges for DDT, PCBs and nonylphenols -oily toxics that don’t dissolve in seawater. Plastic pellets have been found to accumulate up to one million times the level of these poisons that are floating in the water itself. These are not like heavy metal poisons which affect the animal that ingests them directly. Rather, they are what might be called 'second generation' toxic waste.

Animals have evolved receptors for elaborate organic molecules called hormones, which regulate brain activity and reproduction. Hormone receptors cannot distinguish these toxics from the natural estrogenic hormone, estradiol, and when the pollutants dock at these receptors instead of the natural hormone, they have been shown to have a number of negative effects in everything from birds and fish to humans.

'The whole issue of hormone disruption is becoming one of, if not the biggest environmental issue of the 21st Century. Hormone disruption has been implicated in lower sperm counts and higher ratios of females to males in both humans and animals. Unchecked, this trend is a dead end for any species.'

So why not just clean it all up? Captain Moore says it would be easier to vacuum every square inch of the entire United States.

'The plastic patch is larger and the fragments are mixed below the surface down to at least 30 metres. Also, untold numbers of organisms would be destroyed in the process. Besides, there is no economic resource that would be directly benefited by this process.

'We have not yet learned how to factor the health of the environment into our economic paradigm. We need to get to work on this calculus quickly, for a stock market crash will pale by comparison to an ecological crash on an oceanic scale.'

More at http://www.unep.org/regionalseas/marinelitter/publications/docs/plastic_ocean_report.pdf
Barz Optics - Melanin LensesZhik Yachting 660x82InSunSport - NZ

Related Articles

Rio 2016 - America's Cup champ says Paralympic racing is closest ever
Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar Twice America’s Cup champion, Rick Dodson is extremely impressed with the standard of racing in the three man Sonar keelboat class at the 2016 Paralympics in Rio de Janeiro. The regatta is being held in Guanabara Bay on three of the courses used for the Olympic Sailing Regatta in August.
Posted on 13 Sep
Debriefing the Rio 2016 Olympics with Team USA’s Helena Scutt
I talked with Team USA’s Helena Scutt to hear about her Olympic experience, and to learn more about her post-Rio plans. The 49erFX was introduced to Olympic circles when it replaced the Women’s Match Racing event following the 2012 Games. Not surprisingly, it drew high-performance sailors for the Rio 2016 Olympics, including Team USA’s Paris Henken and Helena Scutt. While Henken and Scutt were Olympic first-timers, they put on a strong show. I caught up with Scutt to hear more about her Olympic experience.
Posted on 8 Sep
A Q&A with Peter Bresnan ONE Palma’s founder and director
Sail-World interviewed ONE Palma’s founder Peter Bresnan to learn about the company’s partnership with McConaghy Boats For the past eight years, ONE Palma (formerly OneSails Spain) has been building a strong name, first as a sailmaker and later with refit work. Recently, ONE Palma and McConaghy Boats-legendary boatbuilders who have crafted some of the planet’s fastest sailboats-entered a business partnership. I caught up with Peter Bresnan, ONE Palma’s founder and director, to learn more about this new direction.
Posted on 2 Sep
America's Cup - Emirates Team NZ train late on the Waitemata Harbour
Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. Emirates Team NZ were out for a training session that ran into the early Thursday evening. The team were sailing their recently launched AC45 Surrogate test boat which features an articulated rudder gantry - taking the AC45 close to the geometry of the AC50 to be used in the 2017 America's Cup.
Posted on 1 Sep
Dateline Rio - Sailing Olympics review - as good as it gets?
The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The Rio Sailing Olympics was widely judged to have been the best of recent times. The weather was better than Weymouth and Qingdao, the courses more varied, but from a working media perspective, it was the people running the Rio regatta who really made the difference.
Posted on 26 Aug
Rio 2016 - Plain speaking by triple-medalist on Olympic sailing moves
Triple Olympic medalist, Santiago Lange has been on the sharp end of changes made to Olympic classes and formats Santiago Lange, a six-time Olympian and Bronze medallist in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, won his third medal – Gold sailing in the Nacra 17 class. With that length of experience at an Olympic level, having sailed the Laser, Tornado and now Nacra 17 classes his comments on the future shape of the Olympic regatta was one of the highlights of the Medallists Media Conferences.
Posted on 25 Aug
An Q&A with Steve and Heidi Benjamin about the NYYC’s 2016 Queen’s Cup
Sail-World caught up with Steve and Heidi Benjamin to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup. When it comes to U.S. Grand Prix sailing, it’s hard not to encounter the names of Steve and Heidi Benjamin. The two highly polished sailors have been successfully campaigning their series of yachts, named SPOOKIE, for years, starting first with a Carkeek 40 and progressing to their TP52. I caught up with Steve and Heidi to learn more about Heidi’s historic win in the NYYC’s Queen’s Cup
Posted on 19 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images of the penultimate race in the Finns - Scott wins
Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn Sail-World's Richard Gladwell was on the water for the final race of the Qualifying Series of the Mens Finn, in what potentially could have been Giles Scott's (GBR) Gold medal winning race. In the end, the current world champion won in style.
Posted on 15 Aug
Rio 2016 - Images from the Mens RS:X Medal Race
Sail-World's NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell, was on the water at the Medal Race for the RS:X class Sail-World's NZ Editor, Richard Gladwell, was on the water at the Medal Race for the RS:X class won before the race by Dorian van Rijsselberghe (NED) without needing points from the Medal Race. Nick Dempsey (GBR) was second on a similar basis.
Posted on 15 Aug
Rio 2016 - Sailors talk of Life at the Extreme on the Atlantic Ocean
Certainly the Volvo Ocean Race catchcry of Life at the Extreme is not a phrase associated with the Sailing Olympics. The 470 crews were suffering the mixed emotions of survival of an extreme test by nature, the cold, and for some elation at their placings, after Thursday's battle for survival. In conditions that looked more out of the Volvo Ocean Race, than an Olympic sailing regatta, crews battled 20kt plus winds and Atlantic Ocean rollers that towered up to four metres.
Posted on 13 Aug