Our ocean is becoming a trash receptacle—yeah, that majestic blanket of love that propels you into delightful moments of surfing ecstasy could be (or already is in some places) nothing more than a liquid dump. It doesn’t sound too appealing, does it?
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted The Great Pacific Garbage Patch as early as 1988. Unfortunately that prediction fell on deaf ears, and society continued to dump garbage in the ocean at alarming rates.
When I first heard about The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (TGPGP), I imagined an island of trash floating aimlessly in some remote area of the Pacific—but as I found out, that image is flawed.
In fact, you can’t even see much of the TGPGP because it is made up of tons of tiny plastic particles that are a result of photodegradation—a process of partial degradation caused by sunlight.
Here is the raw deal: plastic is not biodegradable, and as those plastic pieces break into tiny particles they cause environmental havoc on the marine ecosystem. Fish, birds and marine mammals ingest much of the plastic which can rupture their organs or cause starvation. However, the most fundamental issue is caused by microplastics near the surface of the ocean, which block sunlight from reaching plankton and algae below.
If this necessary part of the marine environment is challenged in any sufficient way, marine life will disappear in large numbers from the smallest fish to the largest animal on the planet—the blue whale. Without plankton, the entire marine ecosystem would collapse. Here are four things you can do today to help reduce the trash in our ocean:
1. Reduce plastic use.
Reduce it in every aspect of your life. No plastic water bottles, no plastic bags (always use paper when possible), no plastic packaging, just say no to plastic.
2. Eat less ocean harvested fish.
Yep, the majority of TGPGP, about 705,000 tons, comes from lost, broken or discarded fishing nets. I know this is going to be a hard one, but of all the things you could do, it would be the most impactful.
3. Participate in beach clean-ups.
Join a Surfrider sponsored beach clean-up and pick trash off the ground when you see it. If we prevent trash from entering the ocean and waterways, we have a fighting chance to help reduce the future growth of TGPGP.
4. Support Algalita Marine Research Foundation.
Created by Charles Moore, the man who discovered TGPGP in 1997. Algalita’s mission is to protect and improve the marine environment and its watersheds through research and education on the impacts of plastic pollution. Moore’s foundation is our best hope of finding a solution to TGPGP.
Wishing you a responsible journey ahead—as surfers we must stand up for the health of our oceans. Imagine what it has given us in this life . . . it’s time to give back.
For more from Derek Dodds, check out WaveTribe.com