The seventh continent doesn’t stop growing every year. That’s a huge environmental problem. Maybe one of the bigger that we have to solve. But what is it exactly ?
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch has been discovered in 1997 by the captain Charles Moore. He was participating to a racing boat from Hawaii to California when millions of pieces of plastic surrounding his ship. Also called Pacific Trash Vortex, it gathers pieces of plastic and microplastic between the warm water of South Pacific and the cold water from the Artic. This convergence zone acts like a highway in which debris are trapped and condamned to move from one patch to the other. We talk about an area of 20 millions square kilometers.
A vast swathe of debris scattered across the ocean in an area roughly the size of Texas: A fatal trap for any marine life unfortunate enough to stray near it.
Known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch Find out more in our latest issue of SUBMERGE // #marineconservation pic.twitter.com/SsjN1RHoGo
— Submerge Magazine (@SubmergeM) 15 février 2018
The debris are accumulated because of it is not biodegradable plastic. They never disappear. They just break into tinier and tinier pieces. Some of those tiny bits of plastic are called microplastic and we cannot see them with our eyes. The size of the debris is a part of the problem. Many of them are the same size as small sea animals. How can we clean the ocean without hurting marine life ? Plastics are known to already hurt them : turtles mistake plastic bags for jellies, albatrosses for fish eggs and seals can get struggled. Those debris also disturb marine food. They block sunlight from reaching plankton and algae below, organisms that produce their own nutrients from oxygen, carbon, and sunlight. Moreover, when plastics break down they leach out colorants and chemicals products in the ocean. That’s all the food chain which is in danger.
This island of trash has been analysed by some oceanographers and ecologists. They precise that 70% of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch’s debris sink from a few centimeters to several meters to the bottom of the ocean. About 80% of the debris come from land-based activities in North America and Asia. Trash from the first one take six years to reach the Vortex, while trash from the second one take only one year. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is far from any country’s coastline. That’s an other problem. There is no nation which take responsibility of it or provide the funding to clean it up. The National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration’s Marine Debris Program has estimates that it would take 67 ships one year to clean up less than 1% of the North Pacific Ocean.
Are climatosceptics still sceptics about this problem ? If they argue that they only trust what they see. Let’s have a cruise to this island of garbage.