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Ocean Plastics – How does that affect me?

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Experts are warning that humans “have the most to lose” from the manmade, toxic pollutants that marine life are being exposed to.

A leading scientist reported to Sky News that the millions of tonnes of plastic pollution floating in the world’s oceans could pose a threat to human health.

 Dr Robbie Smith, from the Bermuda Natural History Museum, warned plastic rubbish is attracting other chemical pollutants washed into the sea – such as flame retardants and pesticides – as sunlight breaks plastic down and waves churn it into tiny fragments.

Because the plastic pieces look so similar to the natural prey of marine animals, the chemicals then get passed up the food chain.

Dr Smith said: “The more we look where plastic is and the form it’s in, big or small, the stronger it is integrated into food webs.

“The only place it can go once it is in the food web is up to the top, and we are sitting at the top. So we have the most to lose here.”  Scientists have already found evidence of toxic chemicals in other predators at the top of the marine food chain.

The Sky News team joined the Ocean Tech team on an expedition to the Challenger Bank several miles off the Bermudan coast.  There, the scientists caught a three-metre (9.8ft) tiger shark and took biopsies from its fin for toxicology tests.

Choy Aming, who is part of the team, said: “As animals are digesting, the animals they have eaten have also ingested the toxins, the plastics and manmade pollutants we are putting into the ocean.

“So they work their way up the food chain into the sharks. Typically they have large levels because they are a top predator.”

Bermuda is increasingly alarmed by the amount of rubbish washing up on its shores.

It is on the edge of the Atlantic garbage patch, a swirling mass of plastic that is hundreds of kilometres wide and has been concentrated by the ocean currents.

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Plastics disintegrate into smaller and smaller pieces

 

Scientists trawling a fine-mesh net have found up to 200,000 pieces per square kilometre.  Most are just millimetres across – fragments of the myriad of plastic items in use today.

Sky News was taken by marine conservationist Chris Flook to Castle Island, a remote part of the Bermudan archipelago. High tide had brought in a sheen of almost invisible microplastic.  He said: “Out in the ocean you would see small fish and jellyfish feeding on stuff that is blue, white and purple.  “And (the plastic) we see here is blue, white and purple.  “This is the nightmare here, when the plastic gets to this size.”

Eight million tonnes of plastic are dumped in the world’s oceans every year. That is the equivalent of one full rubbish lorry’s worth every minute.

But the plastic does not disappear – it just disintegrates into ever smaller pieces over several decades.

By 2050, it is predicted that so much plastic will have accumulated in the world’s oceans that it will weigh more than all the fish combined.

A reminder of our four point plan to tackle this issue and how you can help

 

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Whale Dies with 30 Plastic Bags in Stomach

Scientists in Norway found more than 30 plastic bags inside the stomach of a whale stranded in shallow waters off the island of Sotra, Norway.  The creature had very little blubber and was emaciated, suggesting that the plastic had led to it becoming malnourished.

The Cuvier beaked whale was put down by wardens after it became apparent that it wasn’t going to live and had clearly consumed a large amount of non-biodegrabeable waste.

When researchers at the University of Bergen performed an autopsy on the mammal, they analyzed the stomach contents and found huge amounts of plastic, including 30 plastic bags and other plastic packaging with labels in Danish and English.  Dr Terje Lislevand, a zoologist who studies whales added that the intenstines were also probably blocked up with plastic, causing severe pain.  Unfortunately, they weren’t shocked by this but Dr Lislevand said that it very sad to find such large quantities.

The following video may contain distressing scenes.

Cuvier’s beaked whales grow up to 22ft long and usually feed on squid and deep sea fish.  They are not normally found in Norwegian waters.  At the beginning of 2016 experts warned there will be more plastic than sealife in the oceans by 2050.  At least 8 million tonnes of plastic already ends up in the ocean every year – the equivalent of a rubbish truck of waste every minute, according to the report from the World Economic Forum.

The rate of plastic pollution is only expected to increase as more and more plastic is used globally, especially in emerging economies with weaker waste and recycling regimes.

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Cuvier’s beaked whale – courtesy of arkive.org

Some facts about plastic in our oceans

  • Every year millions of tonnes of plastic debris such as bags, bottles and food packaging seeps into our oceans.
  • As plastic degrades slowly, it pollutes the oceans for a long time.
  • It breaks down into fragments called micro-plastics, which are ingested by sealife.
  • It can badly affect living organisms as they become entangled in or ingest it, and they can become choked or poisoned.
  • Researchers estimate the amount of plastic in the oceas is set to increase tenfold by 2020.
  • There could be more plastic than life in our oceans by 2050.

If you visit our STOP page, you can find out how you can help with our campaign to Save the Oceans from Plastic.

Just when you thought it was safe to go back into the water………….

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