Trapped in rotating fat is a growing collection of human waste: garbage from countries bordering the Atlantic, from the west coast of Africa to the east coast of the United States, slowly decaying its long way in microplastics, which ends up in gills and stomachs of aquatic animals.
We joined a Greenpeace expedition to Sargasso, where scientists studied plastic pollution and turtle habitats. Our mission was to better understand what lives in the ecosystem of sargassum, what threatens it, and how it can affect us.
My operator, Bryce Line, and I thought we had an understanding of how humanity's reliance on plastic had affected the Earth. [19659005Отчитамеотнай-отдалеченитерегионинанашатапланетаотАрктикадоАнтарктикакъдетостанахмесвидетелинаоткриванетонамикропластикавлакнаиPFAS(химикаликоитосеизползваткатопетнаиводоотблъскващивеществавнещакатоготварскисъдовеисъоръжениянаоткрито) Read more: Protecting Antarctica: A Trip to the Continent in Need
The sea in Sargasso is another place where few people enter. Constantly changing with the currents, this oval-shaped water body is about 1,000 miles wide and 3,000 miles long. From the bow of our ship, the Greenpeace Esperanza, the water seems pristine, inviting. Having never been in such waters – the open ocean, often considered a wilderness of biodiversity – we are excited to enter.
There are small schools for juvenile triggers and fish, as well as other species that spread or are simply hiding in the sargassum. There are many species we do not see, too small, too suitable for mixing in this rich nursery such as young shrimp and crabs, small frogs and what we were really hoping to find, but not baby turtles.
Trash cans are readily visible in most sargassum: shampoo bottles, fishing accessories, thick hard containers or thin soft bags among many other types of plastic. One scientist points to traces of fish bites in a small plastic sheet that we remove. But what really shakes is when you dive down and look into the blue and realize that you are surrounded by small shiny pieces of broken plastic called microplastics.
Only after you have witnessed the extent of plastic contamination and what
Greenpeace scientists say have found "extreme" concentrations of microplastic contamination in the Sargasso Sea, although they are still reviewing their findings. In one sample, they found nearly 1,300 fragments of microplastics – more than the levels found last year in the notorious Great Pacific garbage.
Their analysis shows that this pollution comes from disposable plastic bottles and plastic packaging, according to Greenpeace.
"In most of the samples we took for samples where there is sargassum, we have seen a lot of plastics because they get tangled in the sargassum, "explains Celia Oeda, a marine biologist with a PhD in ocean conservation, pointing to small pieces floating at the top of a sample.
"It's really nice blue; you can't imagine what's in there, and then when you sample, you're really shocked by the numbers," she says.
Along with fellow scientist Shane Antonision, who is at the Museum and Zoo of the Bermuda Aquarium, Ojeda spends hours reviewing sargassum and what is collected in the Manta trawl network.
Grasping small pieces with tweezers, she carefully places them on paper to count them.
Antonination was part of a similar study years ago. "The more I learn, the more I see how much more a spacecraft looks and how fragile these systems are and how much we rely on these ecosystem services to keep us alive. So (we) are learning more about our impact on earth and using these discoveries to inform of change that can prevent our environment from further degrading, "he says.
From the bin to yours ocean saucer
Only about 9% of plastics produced have ever been recycled.Most disposable plastics end up in landfills or burn in huge toxic fires, some find their way into our rivers or oceans or are sunk in water systems, or blown by wind
"This enters the food chain." "The fish and shrimp eat the plastic, we eat them or the fish that eats them, and this will somehow get into our bodies.
Pollution with plastic is hardly a new phenomenon. A study off the coast of Bermuda in the early 1970s found 3,500 pieces of plastic per square kilometer. More recently, an unpublished study from the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo found that nearly 42% of fish samples swallowed microplastics.
The weight of evidence that humans contaminate one of our major food sources is enormous – not just the introduction of potential toxins in our own bodies, but it also pollutes entire ecosystems and kills valuable marine animals.
How can you protect the ocean?
The key to dealing with ocean plastic is to stop there first, but the solution is not only recycling.
"We have to reuse and recharge," Odzeda says. "Consumers do a lot of things, but if you, as a consumer, go to the supermarket and can't buy something that isn't wrapped in plastic, it's not your fault. You're a human. These are companies; companies have to take the step, you have to
"To restore the oceans, we have to stop them (plastics) now. If we think we can stop them in 10 years, we can stop them, no: we have to stop the disposable plastic then the seas will have a boil to clean up. "
"We have to look at all the ways we don't understand the fate of plastic," says Robbie Smith, a marine ecologist and curator of Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo. "Recycling is terrible, even in the US. Countries are facing reality, but they are not ready to turn off the tap.
"We have to look at the types of plastic we use and eliminate those that cannot be recycled. We have to arrange ground sources (landfills and the like).