continue to die as oceans
become one big garbage can for discarded plastics
refuse washed ashore, competes
with Laysan Albatross nesting
areas on Midway Island
in the Pacific Ocean. (Jay
you've ever walked the beaches
after a winter storm, you can see
the remnants of our throw it away
society. Bits of plastic debris
litter the shore: Bottle caps,
toys, cigarette lighters, fishing
line and other plastic garbage.
Scientists are now documenting
this surge of plastic trash that
leaves a wake of death and disease
that directly affects seabirds.
In many areas of the globe,
birds inadvertently feed on plastic
floating on the water, mistaking
it for food, and many times this
ingestion leads to death and
even the death of their young. (See video to right)
A recent report by scientists
studying the stomach content
of Laysan Albatross chicks on
Midway Atoll in the Pacific Ocean
revealed disturbing results: Forty
percent of Laysan Albatross chicks
die before fledging. Necropsies
of the chick's stomachs found
them filled with plastic trash. (See photo below)
Large plastic detritus
such as bottles and packaging
has well-known effects on sea
life, strangling birds and fish
and transporting alien species
to new waters. And millimeter-sized
plastic pellets - the building
blocks of larger products - clog
US harbors and soak up toxic
chemicals from seawater, poisoning
the creatures that swallow them.
Plastic pellets are also magnets
for toxic chemicals like DDT
and PCBs, becoming, in effect,
poison pills. Japanese researchers
found that concentrations of
these chemicals were as much
as a million times higher than
in the water. Plastics themselves
can leach endocrine-disrupting
chemicals like biphenyl.
"Unlike many discarded materials, most plastics in common use do not biodegrade. Instead they "photodegrade," a process whereby sunlight breaks them into progressively smaller pieces, all of which are still plastic polymers. In fact, the degradation eventually yields individual molecules of plastic, but these are still too tough for most anything—even such indiscriminate consumers as bacteria—to digest. And for the past fifty years or so, plastics that have made their way into the Pacific Ocean have been fragmenting and accumulating as a kind of swirling sewer in the North Pacific subtropical gyre."
hook and fishing line can leave birds injured
for life. This pelican was
lucky, it was captured by IBRRC
and the hook was removed.
is discarded fishing equipment.
Millions of tons of cut line,
lines with hooks, and nets litter
our oceans causing cause slow,
painful deaths to everything
from tiny seabirds to whales.
Many of the birds that come to
rehabilitation hospitals are
impacted by fishing line and
hooks, having ingested and/or
debilitated by carelessly discarded
monofilament line that has wrapped
around their limbs and wings.
Fishing Gear Recycling Program
• Plastic water bottles take 450 years to decompose
• Fishing lines and nets can take up to 600 years to decompose.
• Plastic bags or balloons in the ocean are dangerous. (They can look like a jellyfish meal to a sea turtle)
What we all can do:
• Reduce your use of disposable plastic products
• Reuse and recycle what you can.
• Buy reusable grocery bags to cut down on plastic bag use.
• Tell others about the dangers of marine debris.
• Pick up litter.
• Volunteer for beach and stream clean-ups.
• Remind others not release balloons into the atmosphere.