We are quickly finding out just how much garbage we can throw into the ocean before those bottomless depths fill up.
We toss away garbage like a shopaholic spends, and the ocean is our credit card. Dead zones and blobs continue to expand and proliferate, affecting the creatures who live in and on the oceans and possibly even having an affect on our weather.
Oceans cover two-thirds of our planet. There are now 400 dead zones in oceans around the world; the north Pacific is home of the Pacific Trash Vortex which is a floating mass of garbage – plastics, styrofoam, old fishing gear, etc. – about the size of Texas; another massive garbage patch was been discovered in 2010 in the North Atlantic, a few hundred km off the North American coastline.
Now there’s The Blob – a huge mass of warm water sitting on top of the usually cool Pacific along the coast from Oregon to Alaska. The water is two degrees warmer than normal, which may not sound like a lot, but it is enough to change the nature of food sources and provide a challenge for cold-water fish like salmon. Some scientists say it is likely responsible for the so far unexplained deaths of thousands of Cassin’s auklets, which washed up on Pacific shores last December.
Also washing up on Pacific coastlines is the debris from the Japanese earthquake and tsunami in 2011, which clearly shows us that what goes into the ocean on one side of the world will migrate. More worrisome than the solid debris is the nuclear waste-water leaked by the Fukushima nuclear power station during that time.
That happened one year after BP’s drilling rig explosion in the Gulf of Mexico, pouring oil, natural gas and toxic sludge into the ocean for 87 days. They had no disaster plan in place to address such a catastrophe, and there is still none required , even though there are more rigs in the Gulf of Mexico now than there were then.
Eighty per cent of the marine garbage comes from land-based activities. We all need to cut back on our waste-causing consumption, and it begins with us, the consumer. Share the message.
Wendy Coomber is editor of the Ashcroft-Cache Creek Journal