The Ocean Voyages Institute announced Friday that it has successfully removed more than 40 tons of fishing nets and plastics north of the Pacific Ocean, where four ocean currents converge, creating a vortex that accumulates huge amounts of waste. The cleaning mission lasted for 25 days.
One of the main objectives of the work carried out this year was the collection of abandoned fishing nets in the sea that, as they move, accumulate plastic debris, trap wildlife and even get entangled in boats.
It is estimated that 600,000 tons of this material end up in the oceans each year, while according to the United Nations, about 380,000 marine mammals die every year when they ingest the trash or becomes trapped.
Also last month, the deepest dive ever conducted in a submarine also revealed plastic waste at the bottom of the ocean, at a depth of 11 kilometers.
Former naval officer Victor Vescovo discovered plastic waste at Challenger Deep, the deepest point of the oceans, located in the Marianas Trench in the Pacific Ocean. It was only the third time the deepest point of the ocean had been explored.
Aside from plastic waste such as plastic bags and containers littering the seabed, the team discovered four new species of crustaceans. Some creatures were taken from the Marianas Trough to be studied and see if they contained microplastics.
Microplastics are tiny particles produced during the degradation of plastic products. They are now subject to increased surveillance as they can accumulate in drinking water and seafood. The impact of microplastics on human health is currently unknown, but it could never be positive.
According to the UN, 100 million tons of plastic are now in the ocean. The impacts on the marine fauna are clearly visible. Whales stranded with pounds of plastic in the stomach and marine creatures entangled in plastic waste are no longer rare.
Plastic pollution could have a major impact on maritime tourism. Coral reef-related tourism is estimated to have a total value of $ 36 billion a year, according to a study by Marine Policy.
Luxury hotels and renowned diving destinations such as Indonesia largely depend on the health of marine ecosystems. In addition, the inhabitants of these remote destinations rely on a healthy marine environment and the jobs brought by sustainable tourism.
And about 3 billion people in the world also rely on seafood as the main source of protein.
A team of American-Australian researchers, led by Jenna Jambeck of the University of Georgia, analyzed plastic waste in the oceans and found that China and Indonesia were responsible for more than a third of plastic debris in the world’s oceans.
Researchers at the Helmholtz Environmental Research Center in Germany also found that 90% of the plastic entering the ocean came from 10 rivers, including the Yangtze River, the Indus and the Ganges in Asia, the Nile and Niger in Africa.
These rivers have two things in common: dense populations, reaching hundreds of millions on their shores; and bad waste management policies.
It would be easy to say that plastic pollution is an Asian and African problem. In truth, it’s a global problem. The export of waste abroad is a common practice around the world, which contributes to the plastic pollution of the oceans.
“30 Days at Sea” is Interpol’s month-long operation to monitor illegal transnational waste traffic. The international organization discovered that Europe is at the heart of the problem —90% of illegal dumps and shipments operate from Europe.
These illegal trades include the export of plastic waste from Europe to North America and Asia. Since the problem of mismanagement of waste occurs between the moment they are discarded and the arrival at their final destination, we are all part of the problem and the solution.
China is making efforts to reduce its waste problem and has changed its policies to stop the import of foreign waste (plastics, textiles and paper and cardboard) in July 2017.
The Chinese government has also ordered 46 cities to start sorting their waste and reach 38% of recycled waste by 2020. Given its status as the largest producer of plastic waste and its dominant position in the import of recycled plastics, it’s a big change.
The European Union has also endorsed the ban on single-use plastics. Consumers, on the other hand, are also looking for and finding more and more alternatives to plastic. Every step counts.