Did you know that plastic trash covers about 40% of the ocean’s surface?
Not seaweed, not fishing nets, and certainly not boats or oil rigs.
Plastic. Garbage. Plastic covers 40% of the ocean’s surface. Have I got your attention?
I hope so because marine pollution is an issue that needs everyone to listen up. You can try to stick your head in the sand but the problem won’t go away, and you’ll more than likely end up with trash in your hair.
In Australia, we have some of the most amazing coastlines in the world. But this stunning shoreline and the beaches of the world are hiding a dirty little secret. A disgusting, shameful secret.
Out yonder, behind the waves and into the deep blue, our oceans and all creatures that live there are literally choking on plastic. In the interest of hammering this point home:
- Studies estimate that 15-51 trillion pieces of plastic occupy the oceans of the world
- Georgia University reported that 18 billion pounds of plastic end up in the oceans every year.
- That’s the equivalent of one garbage truck full of plastic being dumped into the ocean every minute.
- For every square mile of ocean, there are 45,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.
The World Economic Forum stated in their report that if we continue to keep producing, using and dumping plastics at the rate we currently are, by 2050 plastic in the ocean would outweigh the amount of fish, pound for pound.
If that doesn’t have you clutching your pearls and reaching for a stiff drink, they also reported:
Worldwide use of plastic has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years, and it is expected to double again in the next 20 years. By 2050, we’ll be making more than three times as much plastic stuff as we did in 2014.
It blows my mind that with all the conversation and education surrounding plastic and its effect on the environment, the problems are getting worse and not better.
How can I fight marine plastic pollution?
Nobody wants to dive under a wave on his or her next tropical holiday only to become entangled in a plastic bag. Here’s what you can do to minimise your use of plastics and prevent them from getting to the ocean. Of all the plastics you’ll find in the oceans, the majority is from plastic bags, plastic cigarette butts, and plastic water bottles; but here are some lesser-known sources of plastic that might just slip through your drain.
In 2017, President Obama signed legislation prohibiting the beauty industry from producing products that contain microbeads. The tiny little beads became popular in skincare and exfoliants as they act as a mild abrasion. The reality is that the tiny plastic beads are washed down the drain and find their way to the ocean. Check your products. Look at the labels and do not buy products that contain microbeads.
In addition to the microbeads, there are so many things that can be mindlessly flushed or rinsed down the sink or toilet.
- Disposable plastic contact lenses
- Makeup applicators
- Cotton bud tips
- Beauty products with glitter
- Disposable fake eyelashes
If you must use these plastics, they need to be disposed of correctly and not swished down the drain.
Single-use plastics were created for modern convenience. I’m thinking the fish aren’t finding them real convenient at the moment. For starters, I would ask everyone to remove using single-use plastics from your daily life. By now, most people are taking their reusable shopping bags to the grocery store, and filling a reusable drink bottle with tap water.
Here are some other single-use plastics that are lesser-known and can end up in our oceans.
- Drinking straws
- Stick stirrers
- Takeaway Food containers
- Excess plastic food packaging
- Plastic food wrappers and bags
- Soft drink bottles
Consuming Fish and the Fishing Industry
Not once has anyone ordered a lovely seafood dinner in a restaurant and asked for a side of chemicals. The sad reality is that any fish in the ocean’s current climate has ingested plastic or has absorbed contaminated water.
Plastics can leach chemicals like BPA into the ocean which means that fish are exposed to it, even if they don’t ingest it. I hate to say it, but when you tuck into that fish fillet, you could literally be eating your own trash.
The fishing industry is huge. Across the globe, around 500 million people rely on the fishing industry to survive. One of the ways the fishing industry damages the environment is by removing unsustainable numbers of fish from their habitats, also known as overfishing. They also create pollution and cause habitat degradation.
The fishing industry as it stands at the moment is not sustainable. Some researchers claim that the size of the fishing industry needs to be significantly decreased if we want to protect our marine environments. A 2006 study reported that if the fishing industry continues at this rate, the entire globe’s fisheries will be kaput by 2048.
If that’s not enough to have you rethinking your meal choices, check out these facts surrounding the fishing industry and marine pollution.
- 59% of fish sold as tuna in the U.S is not actually tuna
- There are no legal requirements for the humane killing of fish
- In 55 years, humans have managed to wipe out 90% of our oceans big guns, these include sharks, marlin, swordfish, and King Mackerel
- If you dive down up to 11kms, you can still find plastic
- Farmed salmon is grey in colour. Artificial pink coloring is added to make farmed salmon look more appealing
- 300,000 whales, porpoises and dolphins die every year because they get tangled in discarded fishing nets
- Many marine organisms can’t tell the difference between plastic and food. Creatures that eat plastic regularly starve to death because they can’t digest the plastic. The plastic fills their stomachs until there is no room for real food.
- According to the WWF, 90% of the ocean’s large fish have already been fished out.
- Ecologists estimate that the North Pacific Garbage Patch is twice the size of Texas.
- There are more microplastics in the ocean than there are stars in the Milky Way
- 322 million tonnes of plastics were produced in 2015. That’s the equivalent weight of 900 Empire State buildings.
- More than 50% of sea turtles have consumed plastic
There might be something incredibly fishy about the current marine pollution problem, but it’s certainly no joke. The idea that humans have crammed the ocean, the fishes home, with plastic that is now poisoning them is a travesty. Keep in mind that I’ve not even touched the statistics surrounding marine mammals and sea birds.
The idea that the plastic in the ocean will weigh more than the amount of fish by 2050 should be sounding the alarm for us all.