» Posted by on Aug 7, 2014 in Blog, Conservation, Dibyarka, Education | Comments Off on MMXIV: With Respect to Hawaii and Conservation

Tropical Fish and Invertebrates to buy-NJ:


MM: XIV With Respect to Hawaii and Conservation:


By Dibyarka Chatterjee


Issue: Much of Earth’s climate is controlled by large systems of oceanic currents called gyres which flow in circular patterns in between the continents. They also collect and push all floating debris from their outer edges (continentals coasts) towards their centers. Since the Industrial Revolution human civilization has created (and continues to create) a huge variety and quantity of non-biodegradable materials like plastic, rubber, fiberglass etc., which are picked up by rivers and streams and inevitably find their way to the oceans. In the Pacific Ocean this debris is picked up along the western coast of US, as well as the eastern coast of Russia, China and Japan. These are some of the biggest industrial nations in the world (and also the biggest polluters), so we can imagine the debris that has been accumulating in the center of the Pacific Ocean.

The “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” is actually made up of three different patches of debris floating just under the surface of the Pacific Ocean. Estimations of the total area affected range from 7×105 to 15×106 square miles (too many zeros to count). At 11.2 lbs of plastic debris per square mile (which is a modest estimate), we are talking about tens of thousands of metric tons of garbage. We can hardly imagine that much garbage accumulating on land without attracting a lot of media attention, and yet since this glaring example of marine pollution (biggest in the world) floats just below the ocean’s surface, it went ignored/unnoticed for decades.

Ecological Impact: Part of what finally brought some media attention to this ecological disaster are the Hawaiian islands, which (along with Midway) have the misfortune of being located near one of the three garbage patches. Non-biodegradable debris are washed ashore and cover huge expanses of Hawaiian shoreline; one of the most visible examples being Kamilo Beach on the main island. Until recently, when the local community began their cleanup efforts, the 3-mile stretch of beach was covered by debris piled 8-10 feet high. As can be imagined, there have been massive ecological impacts on the Hawaiian wildlife. Seafaring birds such as the Black-footed Albatross, Laysan Albatross, Midway Atoll are in great danger because of plastic ingestion. Recent estimates show that one-third of all chicks die because of plastic mistakenly being fed to them by parents. The same is the case for sea turtles; for example the Loggerheads often mistake floating plastic bags for jellyfish, their main diet. Marine fish and mammals become trapped by floating nets, plastic rings used to hold six-packs, etc. Marine debris fields block sunlight from reaching plankton and algae (foundations of the marine food chain) below the surface, causing…. total marine ecosystem failure for huge expanses of Hawaiian coastal waters.

What can I do to help (aside from recycling)?”

A whole lot actually, and it is time sensitive!

As it often happens in human history, the solutions to the greatest challenges come from the most unassuming sources. While studying oceanic garbage patches for a high school project Boyan Slat, a Dutch teenager, was shocked to discover how the scientific community at large had caved to the ‘impossibility factor’ of any large-scale cleanup effort. He began researching the issue in depth and eventually came up with a design for the Ocean Cleanup Array. It was picked up by the international media in 2013 after gaining recognition from TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) and the Dutch government. Boyan spent a year working with leading scientists and engineers around the world to prove the feasibility of his idea. On June 3rd, 2014, he gave a TED talk in NYC sharing the findings of this research and technical trials, proving beyond doubt that it was indeed feasible and cost-effective.     – Watch the “TED talk” on Youtube.

Whereas others cleanup ideas conceived all involve trolling the oceans with nets (which would take billions of dollars and hundreds of years), Boyan came up with a design that would: a) use wind and natural ocean currents to confine and congregate debris from one large area (millions of square miles) at a time, and then b) use a system of floating barriers to enable a small platform to extract the debris without any damage to marine life. The Ocean Cleanup Project (founded by Boyan) has started a 100-day crowd-funding campaign to raise money for the first large-scale units. This drive will end early September, and so time is of the essence. We all strive to change the world for the better, but seldom are we presented with such a tangible and crucial opportunity. Please visit www.theoceancleanup.com to do your part in reversing this man-made ecological disaster.

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