In 2009, researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography traveled across to North Pacific Subtropical Gyre to reseach effects of plastic pollution on sealife. During the long periods of sampling and testing, Scripps found that nearly 9 percent of fish caught during the research expedition had pieces of plastic in their stomachs. The number may seem low, but the researchers think it’s an underestimated as many fish may pass the plastic item or even die from it. They estimated that the fish in North Pacific alone ingest 12,000-24,000 tons of plastic pollution a year. However, in 2008, a group of researchers from Costa Mesa and Long Beach conducted tests in the North Pacific Central Gyre to find out that nearly 35 percent of fish ingested plastic, averaging 2.1 plastic pieces per fish. These two studies from different regions of the North Pacific Gyre reveal one fact: plastic pollution is harming marine life on a global scale.
Eighty percent of this plastic pollution comes from land-based sources, from us. The North Pacific Gyre (even though thousand miles away from us) has waste that keeps coming from our shores every day. Plastic can’t and won’t disappear. It hides “somewhere” in the middle of the ocean slowly breaking down into smaller and smaller pieces. Marine life, which mistake it for food, suffers unknowingly, and thus begins the process of plastics making it into our food chain.
What does this mean for San Diego? Even though Coastkeeper, volunteers and partnering organizations conducted numerous beach cleanups over the years, we still need to make a substantial effort to stop pollution for good. It’s important to mention that beach cleanups are not just calls for volunteers to help the community, they are calls on a broader scale – to end pollution, preserve marine life, take responsibility and educate ourselves to be proactive, not just reactive. We need to learn to be responsible Earth residents and to stop ignorantly polluting our beaches, bays and rivers. Coastkeeper helps in this proactive cause by collecting data at each cleanup and translating that into a serious need for policy change when it comes to plastic pollution.
The reality is that we can’t travel to the middle of the Pacific Ocean to get all the garbage out, but we can stop the source. Remember, the era of plastic only began in late 1900s and what’s collecting in our ocean consists 90 percent of plastic.
Another way to stop pollution is to speak up to your elected officials. And convince business owners to do the same. When the #3 item counted at our cleanups is plastic foam pieces, and after the cleanup you get some food to-go in a Styrofoam container, it’s worth it to speak up to the restaurant and tell them what you see on the beach. With small acts of education, and getting business owners to care about the same issues, we will make the gradual change we want to see in the world.Can you think of anything you do every day that might be a threat to our oceans? For example, I used to buy a big plastic case of water bottle every week. But when I joined Coastkeeper and learned the real facts about plastic and its pollution, I decided to change my tactic. Being a big (clean) water drinker, I wanted to have a bottle with me all the time. So I bought a reusable water bottle and started to fill it up from big gallons I fill at the local water store. Not only did it became cheaper in the long-run, it was (and still is) also very convenient.
Surely, we all have something we can think of every day that may be a threat to the ocean. It might be something small and insignificant, but it all adds up in a good way. Start small and over the time the deeds will accumulate. Plus, don’t forget to remind your friends and family how important it is to avoid polluting, showing that you have their best interest at heart.
Let’s start making impact every day!