The Pacific Ocean garbage patch stretches 500 nautical miles off the Californian coast, past Hawaii across the Northern Pacific and nearly as far as Japan. The debris is held in place by an ocean gyre which creates a ‘soup’ like behavior of plastics, from larger items to smaller micro-plastics which can be consumed by marine mammals and enter the food chain. This can have a huge impact on the bio-diversity. The Pacific Ocean Gyre isn’t the only one, there are other ocean gyres across the world all which have rubbish trapped in the currents.
As the plastics moves across the oceans with the currents when it begins comes close to land, large masses of plastics and other litter can be dumped on beaches and surrounding areas e.g on the Islands in the Hawaiian archipelago. According to the UN environmental marine plastics report, marine plastics have a social, economic and ecological impact – marine litter has been shown to have significant ecological impacts, causing welfare and conservation concerns, especially for threatened or endangered species; social impacts can include injury and death; and economic losses in several sectors can be substantial.
This plastic debris causes deaths of over a million seabirds every year, as well as 100,000 marine mammals, as the plastics have been mistaken for food and have been found in the stomachs of dead birds. Marine plastic pollution has impacted at least 267 species worldwide, including 86% of all sea turtle species, 44% of all seabird species and 43% of all marine mammal species. The impacts include fatalities as a result of ingestion, starvation, suffocation, infection, drowning, and entanglement (D.W.Laist 1997)
Items such as fishing nets and pots can continue to function in the water after it has been dumped (Matsuoka T, et al 2005) this is known as ‘ghost fishing’, this can cause death and injuries as the fish are unable to escape these nets. This process kills thousands of marine life per year and is known as the “killing machines” that never stop fishing (Sheavly 2005).
According to WWF the rapid loss of species we are seeing today is estimated by experts to be between 1,000 and 10,000 times higher than the natural extinction rate, therefore if we carry on at this rate dumping in our oceans this figure could easily rise in the next few years. This excessive dumping of litter in our oceans could cause there to be more plastic than fish in our oceans.
So in theory what ever we put into the oceans gets eaten by these animals and then ends up on our dinner plate. Think about it.