“When you eat clams and oysters, you’re eating plastics as well,” says shellfish biologist Sarah Dudas.
In 2016, she and her students at Vancouver Island University planted thousands of clams and oysters across coastal British Columbia and let them soak in the sand and saltwater of the Strait of Georgia. Three months later, they dissolved hundreds of them with chemicals, filtered out the biodegradable matter and looked at the remaining material under a microscope. Inside this Pacific Northwest culinary staple, they found a rainbow of little plastic particles.
Fish like sardines and anchovies swim together in shimmering schools as a defense mechanism—but it’s not so useful against plastic pollution. Give sea creatures a hand by choosing reusable bags and bottles, and ditching single-use plastic straws. #InOurHands
- Avoid purchasing products that contain microplastics. Microplastic particles and microbeads are most often made of Polyethylene (PE), Polypropylene (PP), Polyethylene Terephthalate (PET), Polymethyl methacrylate (PMMA) and Nylon. PE and PP are the most common found in cosmetics and bath products.
A British-led expedition has discovered sizeable chunks of polystyrene lying on remote frozen ice floes in the middle of the Arctic Ocean.
The depressing find, only 1,000 miles from the north pole, is the first made in an area that was previously inaccessible to scientists because of sea ice. It is one of the most northerly sightings of such detritus in the world’s oceans, which are increasingly polluted by plastics.
Estimates suggest that there are more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic floating on the surface of the world’s oceans. It has been claimed that there is now enough plastic to form a permanent layer in the fossil record. Dr Ceri Lewis, scientific adviser to the expedition based at the University of Exeter, has previously warned that people produce around 300 million tons of plastic a year, roughly the same weight as all the humans on the planet. Around half of all plastic produced is used once and then thrown away.
A significant concern is that large plastic pieces can break down into “microplastics” – tiny particles that are accidentally consumed by filter-feeding animals. The particles remain in animals’ bodies and are passed up the food chain, threatening wildlife at all levels from zooplankton to apex predators such as polar bears. In an attempt to gauge the presence of microplastics in Arctic waters, the scientists intend to test samples of seawater they collected in nets with holes smaller than a millimetre across.
Plastic pollution on an ice floe in the middle of the Arctic Ocean. Photograph: Conor McDonnell
“Why does it matter if we overfish tuna? It tastes so good!”
“If the oceans dried up tomorrow, why would I care? I live 500miles away from any body of water!”
The thing is, without the oceans, we would all be dead. Our planet would probably look like Mars. There would be no freshwater, no food for us to eat, no suitable climate for us to survive.
(Photo: Getty Images/iStockphoto)
Whether you live by the coast, or only see the ocean once a year on holiday, the ocean has an impact on your life. Every breath you take, every food or drinks you have… is thanks to our oceans. Every single individual and living being on this planet is deeply connected, and extremely dependent upon our seas.
The oceans regulates climate, weather, and temperature. They act as carbon dioxide ‘sinks’ from the atmosphere. They hold 97% of the Earth’s water. They govern our Earth’s chemistry; all the microbes and microscopic organisms at the very bottom of the food chain support our own existence. The oceans are also crucial for our economies, health and security.
(Photo credit: Brian Skerry)
The past generations have been raised with the idea that the ocean is huge (and it is) and resilient, and that we could basically take from or put into the oceans as much as we wanted. Now, we found out that we cant go on this way. This mentality is part of our problem and it needs to change.
While we have made tremendous discoveries about the oceans over the last few decades, we have also caused more destruction to the sea than ever before. Many fisheries stocks are overfished, catastrophic fishing techniques are destroying the habitats and depleting populations, many marine species are on the verge of extinction, coral reefs are dying, pollution run-offs from agricultural farms are creating dead-zones where nothing can grow or live, millions of gallons of oil have devastated the Gulf of Mexico, bigger and faster container ships create noise pollution for marine mammals and endangers them…The list goes on, and on. We have had so much impact that we have actually changed the pH of the oceans!
Pretty overwhelming, uh?
So yes, you should care, because if the oceans crash, we as a species are crashing with them. The entire planet Earth will be gone. And if that’s not enough of a wake-up call for you, I don’t know what else could be!
While all the current marine conservation issues appear huge and insurmountable, there is still hope. Each individual can make a difference now. YOU can make better choices about which fish to consume (or not at all!) and ask about the way they were caught or raised, YOU can encourage sustainable fishing practices, YOU can decide not to use fertilizer or pesticides in your backyard, YOU can bring your own reusable bag to the grocery store and stop using plastics, YOU can stop using products with microbeads, YOU can participate in beach clean-ups, YOU can start your own research and discover even more awesome things about the oceans… YOU can spread the word to your skeptic friends! Have people follow in your footsteps; inspire your friends and family. Be the change :) !
Do you use a product that has “microbeads” (small plastic balls used to exfoliates your face)? You could be contributing to plastic pollution in oceans and lakes, as these beads are too small to be filtered out, and are often eaten by fish. You can find alternatives to microbeads here.