Whilst reading the Marine Conservation Biology Institute blog I came across a link to a piece in the Economist entitled Blue in green. The article argued that green is the colour synonymous with environmentalism but isn’t this rather a anthropocentric, terrestrialist viewpoint? I agree, it probably is. We use green to describe groups who monitor whales and dolphins, and who conserve turtles – all creatures that dwell in the deep blue.
The Economist columnist goes on to say that when it comes to green issues we suffer from planet-scale nimbyism that seems to focus on terrestrial organisms. I thought this a little unfair, until a friend told me about the junkyard in the sea…
Yes, you heard me correctly, the world’s largest ‘landfill’ is in the sea, in the Pacific to be exact. Known as the North Pacific Gyre, the patch is a vortex of swirling ocean currents surrounding a stationary area of water which draws in all kinds of floating detritus, mainly plastic, creating a huge rubbish dump.
Studies have been carried out in the gyre area to assess the impact of the plastic on the local wildlife. It’s bad enough that it is eaten by seabirds, dolphins and turtles but an added danger is that the plastic acts as a trap for persistent organic pollutants or POPs which are also ingested by the animals (see Rios et al., 2007). Even when the plastic has been broken down into smaller particles it still poses a problem further down the food chain. Another study reported on the potential for ingestion of plastic particles by filter feeders. Here they found that although plankton abundance was approximately five times higher than that of plastic, the mass of plastic was approximately six times that of plankton (Moore et al. 2001).
Chemical contamination, over-fishing, invasive species… don’t even get me started on that one…our marine habitats have much to contend with. So in the New Year if you decide to turn over a new green leaf then why not spare a thought for the Earth’s blue bit!
Persistent organic pollutants carried by synthetic polymers in the ocean environment
Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 54, Issue 8, August 2007, Pages 1230-1237
Lorena M. Rios, Charles Moore and Patrick R. Jones
A Comparison of Plastic and Plankton in the North Pacific Central Gyre
Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 42, Issue 12, December 2001, Pages 1297-1300
C. J. Moore, S. L. Moore, M. K. Leecaster and S. B. Weisberg
the first represents the contents of a normal ocean trawl, and the second and third were taken from the North Pacific Gyre