Marine debris , the real monster in the water

Water covers more than 70% of Earth’s surface and is home to billion of plants and animals. The clean water is essential for life, not only for you, for sea species aswell. But our waters and sea life face very serious problems: tons of trash are floating in our oceans. According to the latest researches, more than 5,2 trillion pieces of plastic are in the world’s oceans. The numbers are inconceivable and unimaginable: 270.000 tons marine debris are floating on the sea surface and billions of tiny plastic parts can be found in the deeper waters.

Snorkeler with trash

We must take the ocean’s plastic pollution seriously, in the great circle of life we pollute ourselves if we pollute our waters, the toxic plastic parts get into those animals body what we eat, so ultimately we will eat our own plastic litter.

Our garbage become marine debris

What is marine debris? Marine debris (defined by the NOAA – National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) is ‘any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment”. The biggest part of sea trash is definitely plastic.
Plastic normally was a useful material, it was desgined to be lightweight and durable, but now it is everywhere on our earth. Our society can’t handle the huge amount of plastic litter anymore, we are fighting every day, try to select our waste, recycle but the plastic problem is bigger than we expected. Have you ever checked how many plastic take you home if you do your weekly shopping? Countless plastic bags, cups and wrapping foils are everywhere. 50 % of the plastic we use, we use just once and recover only 5 %. It takes 500-1000 years for plastic to degrade. An avarage American throws away more than 185 pounds (84 kg) of plastic a year. We use more than 500 billion plastic bags every year and there are more than 35 billion plastic bottles thrown away only in America per year.White plastic bag in the sea
The fact is that 80-90 % of the marine debris comes from us, from land-based sources and the rest from ships and oil platforms. 10 metric tons of plastic are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day in the Los Angeles area. The plastic never degrades entirely, the sun and water may break it into small bits, but it never disappaers and ends up sooner or later as marine debris. The wind may blew the plastic litter into our rivers, the rivers take it into our oceans, where the marine debris start to accumulate in the oceanic gyres.

Oceanic gyres are home to garbage patches

The gyres are system of rotating ocean currents caused by the Coriolis Effect and shift depending on wind, currents and waves.

There are 5 major gyres:

  • North Atlantic
  • South Atlantic
  • Indian
  • South Pacific
  • North Pacific

The sea trash is concentrating in these gyres, these are the “Garbage patches” in our oceans. These patches are huge areas where smaller and bigger plastic parts are floating on the sea surface and in deeper layers. As the plastic is breaks into tinier and tinier pieces by sun and salt water, most of the plastic parts are invisible for the eye, so the extension of these marine debris patches are hardly definiable.

The first discovered and most known is The Great Pacific Garbage Patch which can be found in the central of the North Pacific Ocean, between California and Japan.

Some facts about The Great Pacific marine debris patch:

  • was reported firstly in 1988
  • plastic weights approx 7 million tons
  • in the gyre there are 6 times more plastic parts than plankton
  • twice size of Texas
  • up to 9 ft (2,7 m) deep
  • high relative concentrations of pelagic plastics, and chemical sludge

50 % of the ocean garbage is floating and drifting for years before concentrating in the patches. Because of the changing currents trash waves often reach the coastal waters and roll out huge amounts of rubbish to the beaches. This situation happened to us on our last snorkeling trip. We spotted every day more and more floating plastic things during swimming, and one day the main, slow-moving trash current reached the coastal waters and left millions bigger and smaller pieces of junk on the beach. Us and other snorkellers, holiday-makers started to collect the bags, cups in the water and on the beach, but it was simple too much everywhere and we felt ourselves powerless. Please watch our video what represents how looked this “trash wave” like.

The plastic returns to us

We must handle the marine debris problem as an urgent matter, although we may think these garbage patches are in the middle of nowhere, far from us, we are affected more than we think.
The long-lasting plastic parts end up in the stomach of marine animals and birds. Sea turtles eat jellyfish and they mistake plastic bags for their natural prey. Large amounts of plastic have been found in whale’s stomach as well. I think all of us have already seen shocking photos about dead birds had plastic in their digestive system. Researches have shown that marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide, 1 million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed from plastic each year.marine debris
The plastic ingestion is unavoidable for the marine animals, so for us aswell. Experts of the Scrips Institution of Oceanography in California say that 5 to 10% of the fish contain small pieces of plastic. Many of these fish are consumed by us and unfortunately I think all of us hear a lot about the harmful and toxic effects of plastic, have personal stories and experience…

Take action and help as you can: read more about sea pollution and plastic problems on relevant sites, buy products without packaging, recycle, participate in clean-up programs, collect trash while walking on the beach or swimming in the water. We must be the change we wish to see in the world!

Help raise awareness and share this article, photos and video, Thank you!

Anett Szaszi

Anett fell in love with the ocean immediately when she put her head underwater in the Red Sea back in 2010. Discovering megacities is not her style but getting lost in tiny coastal villages, capturing the beauty of the sea while snorkeling. Wherever she goes, she takes her mask, fins and underwater camera with her. She has a big interest in exploring the world’s last hidden underwater paradises and marine conservation. She hopes to inspire people to protect our oceans by sharing her underwater stories. Find her photos on @anett.szaszi Instagram too!

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