Apparently, another major source of pollution is the fishing gear that is often discarded by fishermen. Large boats carrying tens or even hundreds of people are often used for hunting down large masses of fish for selling. These fish suffer a brutal fate on their own, without even considering all the plastic waste they might choke on on the way. Once they collect enough fish, these fishermen drop their used equipment into the bottom of the ocean, where they wreak even more havoc.
According to a 2017 study, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a massive part of the ocean the size of Texas, contains mostly fishing equipment in its large swatch of floating debris. This area, which is located between California and Hawaii, contains much of the trash discussed earlier. The more it breaks down over time and spreads in the ocean, the harder it will be to tackle it in due time. This can be avoided by simply being more environmentally conscious, which is why awareness of the problem is of utmost importance.
Underwater Plastic Traps
When divers from NOAA’s Okeanos Explorer were sent to research the effects of plastic on underwater ocean inhabitants, the results they found were shocking. The group spent many days filming an area of the ocean that was littered with plastic. It wasn’t particularly crowded with either plastic or life but was a good example of the condition in many areas. The explorers found that out of thousands of pictures of plastic waste, almost 20% of them included an aquatic animal trapped in it, with many of these events causing suffocation and death.
The question that baffled researchers was just how all that plastic traveled tens of thousands of miles to a remote part of the ocean almost devoid of people. It’s clear that billions of people use plastic products, with many of those being thrown into the ocean. What was not clear was how did they get so far into the ocean. The going theory was that the plastic, which takes hundreds of years to break down, basically traveled all the way from other places in the ocean. The only thing that was left to test was just how fast the plastic spreads. The answers our researchers found were utterly shocking for them.
Plastic Is Coming
A recent study that was conducted in the Mariana Trench found that it actually has a higher level of pollution than some of the most polluted rivers in China. The reason for these levels of pollution is the result of two destructive phenomena. The first is plastic breakdown. Over time, the pieces of plastic that are discarded into the ocean on beaches and from ships tend to break down. As more pieces of plastic utensils, bottles, and bags begin to break, the levels of pollution only continue to get worse. The second phenomenon is even worse.
The Mariana Trench is a very central spot in the ocean. This means that it often attracts ocean waves and water movements that move directly in its direction. These flows of water drag all the plastic waste from the beaches right into these central areas. What makes these phenomena so frightening is that it makes the entire ocean susceptible to pollution, as every area can be covered in plastic that traveled to it from a completely different place. There is nothing stopping waste from reaching secluded places like the Mariana Trench, which puts all of the ocean’s inhabitants at risk.
The Ocean’s Plastic Karma
The disastrous consequences of plastic pollution go far beyond just trapping and suffocating marine life. When plastic breaks down, it also finds its way into the stomach and bloodstream of various sea creatures, causing them to suffer from horrible medical conditions which slowly kill them. These various fish, which we end up eating, are often contaminated with not just mercury but also various pieces of plastic.
It’s almost as if the oceans wash up our garbage only to serve it right back onto our plates. By now, there’s no part of the ocean that hasn't been affected by human waste due to the nature of these pieces of plastic to break down and travel. Recent research by scientists from Newcastle University found that even at almost 11,000 meters below sea level, almost every living sea creature there has eaten some sort of man-made material, including PVA, PVC, plastics, and nylon. What do medical professionals have to say about this karmic cycle?
A Professional Opinion
By loitering the oceans with plastic, we force other animals to inject the polluting non-degradable plastic, which chokes and poisons them. These sea animals then get eaten either by us or other living ocean creatures (who are also eaten by us eventually). Dr. Alan Jamieson, a marine ecology professor and the head of the aforementioned study, explains that “there were instances where the fibers could actually be seen in the stomach contents as they were being removed,” He claims that these results were both “immediate and startling.”
The pollution problem is already at a much higher level than what is considered reasonable. Even if we completely stop plastic pollution today, there would still be more than we can handle in the oceans. While we wait to solve this problem, plastics keep breaking down in the ocean, making them even harder to track and extract. In addition, the ocean’s flows also keep spreading plastic all across the seas.