Friday, May 11, 2018

How Marine Pollution Affects the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

article by Anna Snyder
edited by Emma Snyder

All around the world, plastic pollutes ocean waters each year. Approximately 1.15 to 2.14 million tons of plastic are released into the ocean from rivers every year. When plastic is released into the ocean, it is trapped by the circular motion of currents. These currents then draw debris into the center where it will stay there. This has later resulted in the creation of an island of trash. This patch of trash, located in the Pacific Ocean is called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The trash patch today has an estimated surface area of 1.6 million kilometers. To put this into perspective, the trash is twice the size of Texas and three times the size of France. It was predicted by scientists but was officially discovered by a racing ship captain, named Charles Moore. He discovered the patch on his way back from Hawaii to California after a yachting competition. Him and his crew noticed it when millions of pieces of trash started to surround their ship. All of the trash was in so many different shapes and sizes because of the plastics inability to decompose. So, on a simple note the plastic can never break down, the pieces just degrade into tiny and tinier pieces until not seen by the effect of the sun’s waves and marine life.

All of this trash and plastic is a major problem for the environment and for life in general. It mostly affects animals like seals, seal lions, birds, plankton, dolphins, turtles, and many other marine life that live in the ocean. A couple major reasons of how the trash affects the animals is many of them think the trash is food, because of the plastic’s shape, size, and color. For example, turtles mistakenly think plastic bags are jellyfish, which they can accidentally eat. Because plastic is not edible, it is unable for animals to live off of it. This leads to the deaths of many animals, because of malnutrition. Another reason why plastic is so harmful to animals is because they can get entangled in the plastic and trash which sadly can result in slow deaths. These slow deaths are caused by major wounds, infection, and starvation. Approximately 640,000 fishing gear is polluted in the water every year which results in at least 136,000 seals, sea lions, and other mammals to be killed every year. The deaths caused by fishing nets, is known as ghost fishing. Ghost fishing, along with malnutrition from plastics, are only some of the major dangers that this plastic patch has on the world and our animals. If this continues, plastic could possibly create a major negative change in the food chain, and could possibly result in major problems in the future.

Knowing this, we need to try to prevent more plastic from entering the patch. Even though there isn’t a immediate or permanent change of getting rid of the patch, we can do little things like recycling and reusing water bottles, instead of buying plastic bottles. All of this can help contribute to an end to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and can make Earth a safer and happier place to live in.

This picture shows a sea turtle that is wrapped up and trapped in a plastic fishing net, which can later drown the turtle in the process called “ghost fishing.” Citation- “Great Pacific Garbage Patch Weighs More than 43,000 Cars and Is Much Larger than We Thought.” Google Search, Google,

Lower view of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Here you can see numerous pieces of trash that are recognizable, unrecognizable, tiny, and big. Citation- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Is Three Times the Size of France and Growing, Study Finds.

1 comment:

  1. This "garbage patch" is overwhelmingly bigger than this article can show because global economics and regulatory concerns are a piece of the problem. However, the concluding push for each individual to do their part is still an important part of working toward a solution that is achievable.