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Escape from the vortex | by Richard Black.
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Escape from the vortex

The Pacific Trash Vortex, is a rotating ocean current trapping plastic in the central North Pacific Ocean. Most debris consists of small plastic particles suspended at or just below the surface, making it impossible to detect by aircraft or satellite. Instead, the size of the patch is determined by sampling. Estimates of size range from 700,000 square kilometres (270,000 sq mi) to more than 15,000,000 square kilometres (5,800,000 sq mi) or, up to twice the size of the continental United States.

 

Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine birds and animals, and their young, including sea turtles and the Black-footed Albatross. Midway Atoll receives substantial amounts of marine debris from the Pacific Trash Vortex. Of the 1.5 million Laysan Albatrosses that inhabit Midway, nearly all are found to have plastic in their digestive system. Approximately one-third of the chicks die due to being fed plastic from their parents.

 

Besides the particles' danger to wildlife, on the microscopic level the floating debris can absorb organic pollutants from seawater, including PCBs, DDT, and PAHs. causing hormone disruption in the affected animal. These toxin-containing plastic pieces are also eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by larger fish.

 

Many of these fish are then consumed by humans, resulting in their ingestion of toxic chemicals. Marine plastics also facilitate the spread of invasive species that attach to floating plastic in one region and drift long distances to colonize other ecosystems.

 

On the macroscopic level, the physical size of the plastic kills birds and turtles as the animals' digestion can not break down the plastic inside their stomachs. A second effect of the macroscopic plastic is to make it much more difficult for animals to see and detect their normal sources of food

 

Plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide

 

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Taken on September 29, 2012