Friday, November 08, 2013

The Plastic Ocean

You've heard of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and probably the Texas-sized concentration of Japanese flotsam headed for the US Pacific Northwest.  (That one is to some degree exaggeration - it's not a solid floating mass - but there's a lot of debris on US beaches and a lot more heading out way. According to NOAA, about 1.5 million tons of such debris floated out to sea in the wake of the tsunami.) A messenger from the oceans (albeit a tragic one) was a gray whale that beached and died near Seattle.  In the stomach of this bottom-scraping filter feeder were "more than 20 plastic bags, small towels, surgical gloves, sweat pants, plastic pieces, duct tape, and a golf ball." The gray was a male 12 meters long. A biologist commented: "While debris has been found in the stomachs of some previous gray whales found dead in Puget Sound, this appeared to be a larger quantity than had ever been found previously."
It's not just Puget Sound. It's not just the Pacific.  It's everywhere, and we have to stop it now.


Laurence Clark Crossen said...

I wonder how much accumulates on the bottom and how long it will remain?

Matt Bille said...

A lot, alas, and practically forever, although it will be covered by silt over time.