Marine pollution is happening everywhere and at times can seem like such a broad and obscure term that it becomes hard to apply in ways that we know. One does not need to journey very far to see the pollution of marine debris in action; marine debris can affect the smaller bodies of water such as ponds or lakes and range all the way up to the greater oceans. For example, Lake Perris was once a very nice place to visit, but at one point in time, it was not hard to see floating diapers and other assortments of trash floating along the shore side. This local lake that is secluded from the rest of the world still manages to collect such a large amount of debris. So when looking at the oceans of the world that are used for much more than just a day at the lake, it can really put into perspective just how much more and easily marine debris can accumulate when our oceans are immensely larger and connected in some way or another. Marine debris or litter causes a number of problems for the world and everyone who lives on it. The pollution is affecting marine life worldwide in ways that we are still learning of today. While it may seem like an immense and almost impossible problem to solve the world is becoming aware of the problem and various solutions are being proposed to combat the situation. Overall, to actually make some sort of difference it would take the efforts of everyone to make this change and while it will not happen overnight it is still an achievable goal.
Marine life has no choice as to what we do to the oceans, so it is up to us to makes changes that will help preserve them. Marine life is being affected from two major sources one source is that of which is land-based such as rivers and beaches and the other being sea-based such as waste disposal plants and oil rigs (Williams and Rangel-Buitrago 648), with a majority of contaminants coming from land. Adding to that statement according to Sheavly and Register’s report “Land-based sources account for up to 80% of the world’s marine pollution” meaning when litter is not disposed of correctly it ends up in sewer ways or rivers ultimately becoming pollution in the ocean (302). When someone loses their water bottle that they brought with them to the beach or their flip flops in the sand, they do not just magically disappear and end up with someone throwing them away into trash bins. The reality of it is that it is going to end up in the oceans and will probably last, “for an unknown number of years in the oceans” (Williams and Rangel-Buitrago 648). From there it might end up back on the coast where it has a greater chance of being removed from the water and being properly disposed of, or the more likely case is that depending on the type of litter it will become entangled in the oceans gyres, natural ocean currents, and circulate around various oceans. There is a varying degree of pollutants and chemicals circulating in the ocean, but plastics are the dominant pollutant and in some places can account for up to 100% of marine litter (Williams and Rangel-Buitrago 648). It may almost seem like an exaggeration at times since it is hard to really see how we are affecting the ocean but there are places where ocean pollutants build up and become almost like an island. Gyers can have an immense effect of the collection of marine debris, “Gyre circulation has led to the Pacific Ocean containing 33% to 35% of the global ocean plastic” (Welden et al 484). Due to a majority of the ocean reaming vastly unexplored those numbers can be inaccurate due to our ability to only survey the surface. It may seem as if it is not that bad when seeing only thirty-five percent of trash is in our local ocean but when put into perspective with the finding from Erikson’s report, “That at least 5.25 trillion plastic particles weighing 268,940 tons are currently floating at sea” means that there are somewhere around 150 million plastic particles swimming with us as well when we visit the beach (7). These plastics are contaminating our oceans and some are none the wiser as to how bad we really are destroying our ecosystems. These plastic particles happen when plastics do not entirely degrade and break into bits and pieces. These particles are small and shiny and just like any small child; fish will immediately move to devour these objects. Therefore causing, “Many animals confuse debris for food and cannot regurgitate an item once it has been swallowed” sometimes becoming lodged in their digestive tracts and causing, “false sense of cessation, causing some animals to stop eating and slowly starve to death” (Sheavly and Register 303). Marine animals are not intelligent enough to differentiate the difference between such things so it is up to us to ensure that they do not have to face such a cruel situation. Marine animals are not limited to just fish but includes seabirds and mammals as well with only a couple hundred of known documented cases of this happening there is a possibility that there are even more out there happening that are unknown to us. While most plastics are going to deteriorate into smaller particles there are some that do not, “Plastics of all sizes were found in all ocean regions” (Eriksen 9). These are the pieces of litter that will make up the islands of trash that really began the movement to clean up the oceans in recent years. Some of the biggest pieces of litter are those that fishermen bring into the oceans themselves. Fishermen use items such as ropes, nets and tarps and these items have the potential to destroy delicate marine habitats such as living coral reef, sea grass, and various types of corals (Sheavly and Register 303). These items have the ability to completely ruin the delicate environments that are home to the many creatures of the sea. This in turn causes fish to have to relocate to other places which can have the potential to cause even greater harm to ecosystem by introducing new organisms and other things of the like to places that should not have them. The greatest offender of them all is the fisherman’s net because when lost, the currents of the ocean move them around still and become what is called “ghost fishing” (Sheavly and Register 303). A name that sounds like a bad horror movie is a very real thing in some cases these nets can circulate for years killing fish and other ocean life that come across its path. There are countless things that are happening to the ocean some that of which we have the ability to control and those that we do not, for those small amount of things that we can have an effect on it becomes our obligation to do so.
Today there are multitudes of solutions that are being proposed to combat the ever growing marine litter in the oceans. Solutions vary from the complete ban of plastic straws that some organizations are already adopting. Charging for plastic bags at grocery stores similar to what is being done in California. Completely changing the composition of plastic and other materials into a more biodegradable formula, solving a range of problems. Educating the public about the consequences of improperly disposing of trash and plastics and what it is doing to the environment. Organizing volunteers of the community to clean up beaches and lakes, cleaning up what is directly visible. One particular solution, arguably the best solution, takes advantage of natural ocean currents by placing what are essentially giant screens in them to capture circulating litter. In fact if this plan is to work they may “be able to remove 90% of ocean plastic by 2040” which sounds unbelievable in both good and bad ways (The Ocean Clean Up). Meaning that there is so much trash that it would takes almost thirty years to remove the amount of trash that is currently in the oceans. Also, that this solution by itself has the ability to remove such great amounts of trash that it really is the best solution. The screen itself is an almost 2,000 feet long and 9 feet deep, and is designed so that there is a naturally occurring down flow current that forms helping fish to safely go under the net. In consideration of marine life the screen is moving extremely slow so that fish have more than enough time to move out of the way. The screen is also designed so that it will not be destroyed in storms and harsh weather wasting resources and other costs of development. One of the more important points is that, “screen is not a net, sea life cannot become entangled” which is very good as it will not have a possibility of becoming a ghost net (The Ocean Clean up). The net is still currently being revised because of its subpar performance, but is still expected to meet their goals of ninety percent of clean up being done by the year 2040. The reason for the failure is because the screens lack of ability to hold the litter in place longs enough for it to be collected but is expected to be resolved and improved allowing it to be redeployed sometime in the month of June 2019.
Even if the ocean was to be cleaned up of all types of
litter and debris, if we were not to change our ways there would be nothing to
prevent it from happening again. The ocean is one of our greatest natural
resources takes up a majority of our earth and a good portion of it still
remains unexplored. It is too precious of a resource for us to destroy in ways
that are completely possible to avoid and prevent. With the proposed solution a
way out is seemingly there but if we do not try and make the changes and
educate those who remain unaware the problem will never truly go away.
Sheavly, S., and K. Register. “Marine Debris & Plastics: Environmental Concerns, Sources, Impacts and Solutions.” Journal of Polymers & the Environment, vol. 15, no. 4, Oct. 2007, pp. 301–305. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1007/s10924-007-0074-3.
This article talks about marine debris that is plaguing the oceans today and things that can be done about them. Going on to state that although it currently is a problem, it is a solvable problem naming various steps and programs to be done to accomplish this. I plan to use this article to reference different types of programs and steps that can be done to help clean up the oceans. This article is in the form of an academic journal so I would assume that it is very reliable to cite and reference.
Welden, Natalie AC, and Amy L. Lusher. “Impacts of Changing Ocean Circulation on the Distribution of Marine Microplastic Litter.” Integrated Environmental Assessment & Management, vol. 13, no. 3, May 2017, pp. 483–487. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1002/ieam.1911.
This scholarly journal that details the poor disposing practices that are done out of not caring or just ignorance of what happens after disposable items leave our hands. Also going on to detail how the spread of certain materials will sink or be spread around by various factors such as currents or the ever changing weather. I plan to use the various statistics that are given in the report to give a better understanding of a hard to imagine topic. The reliability of the report is solid as they list various references, on top of it being a scholarly journal that was peer reviewed.
“Clean Oceans International.” Journal of Ocean Technology, vol. 11, no. 2, Apr. 2016, pp. 90–91. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=eih&AN=118566125&site=ehost-live.
This article details a non-profit organization’s effort to solving the marine debris problem that we are facing. The organization promotes conversion of plastic waste into fuels into diesel fuel and by educating communities on the financial benefits of doing so. I plan to use this article as a springboard for looking into practical solutions for disposing of debris that end up in the oceans. As for the credibility of the article I would rate it as very reliable as it comes with data about the conversions as well as it also being in an academic article.
Williams, A. T., and Nelson Rangel-Buitrago. “Marine Litter: Solutions for a Major Environmental Problem.” Journal of Coastal Research, vol. 35, no. 3, May 2019, pp. 648–663. EBSCOhost, doi:10.2112/JCOASTRES-D-18-00096.1.
This article goes in great depth explaining what marine litter is and what can be done about it giving statistics and imagery to convey the point. Offering various solutions to curb the rise in litter as well as offering knowledge that is necessary to prevent it as well. I plan to use this article as a main source for my report as it goes in great depth in discussing potential solutions as well as was to prevent as well. The credibility can be assumed to be one that is of high stature, offering various references and citing multiple sources as well.
Gallo, Frederic, et al. “Marine Litter Plastics and Microplastics and Their Toxic Chemicals Components: The Need for Urgent Preventive Measures.” Environmental Sciences Europe, vol. 30, no. 1, Apr. 2018, p. 1. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1186/s12302-018-0139-z.
Some persistent plastics have estimated lifetimes of hundreds of years that can deteriorate into smaller materials that are consumed by marine life. This article goes into further details about that process and how the problem can only grow if things are not changed. I chose this article because its in-depth look at the process of decomposition and the consequences that is there. The reliability of the source can be considered high because the date the article was accepted is listed as well as the abundance of references that are included in the article.
Eriksen, Marcus, et al. “Plastic Pollution in the World’s Oceans: More than 5 Trillion Plastic Pieces Weighing over 250,000 Tons Afloat at Sea.” PLoS ONE, vol. 9, no. 12, Dec. 2014, pp. 1–15. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0111913.
Gramling, Carolyn. “A Massive Net Is Being Deployed to Pick up Plastic in the Pacific.” Science News, Society for Science & the Public, 7 Sept. 2018, www.sciencenews.org/article/massive-net-being-deployed-pick-plastic-pacific.
“The Ocean Cleanup Technology.” The Ocean Cleanup, theoceancleanup.com/