Can The Flotsam

The Can The Flotsam campaign had its start right alongside the beginnings of Protect The Ocean. We’re against ALL forms of pollution. This time, we’re taking the fight to the pollution, rather than waiting for pieces of it to drift onto the shore. PTO has been talking about the problem for years, but with the latest S.O.S., we realized that just talking about it wasn’t cutting it, and that with all of that plastic collecting out there in the Eastern Garbage Patch of the North Pacific, breaking down into tiny toxic pieces, we just couldn’t wait any longer for Somebody to do it.

So we’re looking for partners, helpers, volunteers, assistance any way we can get it. We’re looking for help in the single biggest ecological clean-up project ever! That’s right! We’re preparing to go out to that garbage patch and start picking it all up, hauling it back. What can be recycled will be. The rest will be disposed of, canned, so it can never get back to the ocean again.

Can The Flotsam has at least three prongs to it:

1) Get people to use natural cloth bags and to dispose of plastics properly (preferably by recycling, whenever possible).

2) Go out there, whatever it takes, and net, scoop, filter and haul as much plastic as humanly possible from the Eastern Garbage Patch.

3) Maintain the clean-up by returning to the area periodically to clean it up again. Accidents still happen, and we’re nowhere near neive enough to think that flotsam won’t show up there again. It has taken decades to get this bad, though, and resulted in millions of pounds of tiny toxic plastic. We’re simply going to have to keep on patroling and policing until things change. What we CAN’T afford to do is just leave it out there.

Additionally, we intend to aid Algalita Marine Research Foundation any way we can, as they work towards solutions for the existing toxicity in our increasingly synthetic oceans.

There’s a plastic garbage dump two times the size of Texas sitting out there in our oceans. Every day it sits there, it releases more toxic plastic particles into the water, killing marine life as it makes its way to our dinner tables.

We’ve sent out a S.O.S. on behalf of the oceans. Will you heed the call?

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PTO sounds S.O.S. in the North Pacific; Can The Flotsam!

We wrote about the flotsam whirling about in the middle of the Pacific a few years back.  Guess what?  It’s still sitting there, killing wildlife.  But it’s degrading as well, turning everything toxic.  Not only are the Algalita’s famous Nikes still out there, but they seem to have been joined by a couple BILLION plastic shopping bags, plastic oil bottles, plastic nets, and tiny balls of gunky plastic.  Collectively, they’re taking huge tolls on everything from the common seagulls to endangered turtles and Monk Seals.  

We’re calling for a full ban on plastic shopping bags, and will provide you with a list of unsavory facts, and reality below.  But more than that, Protect The Ocean is calling for a massive clean-up.  We’re talking about something bigger than any shoreline clean-up ever.  We want to net up and haul in as much of the Eastern Garbage Patch’s flotsam as is humanly possible — and we want to do so now.  

The Eastern Garbage Patch’s continued existence at the current and increasing concentrations can only serve one good purpose: It reminds us that we must stop being so careless about the deadly plastics.  Meanwhile, its very existence means that it continues to kill and poison literally trillions of sea creatures.  But guess what else?  That toxicity, which is being picked up and ingested by all that marine life?  It’s making it to your dinner table at this very moment. 

Plastics aren’t biodegradeable.  They break down into even smaller (and increasingly more toxic) pieces, but they don’t EVER go away.  As they sit in the ocean, they last even longer.  In this one case, that may prove a good thing for us, because it’s a lot easier to scoop out pieces that we can readily see than to try to filter out pieces of plastic the size of plankton.  Already, there are millions of pounds of plankton-sized particles out there, and it’s only going to get worse if we don’t pick  it up.

Algalita’s research informs us that “broken, degraded plastic pieces outweigh surface zooplankton in the central North Pacific by a factor of 6-1.” SIX pounds of tiny pieces of plastic for every one pound of plankton.  Just imagine what that does in a whale’s gut.  It’s worse than non-nutrition, because the stuff is toxic, poisonous.  When marine life swallows it, they ingest the poison.  

That’s not the only danger.  Those shopping bags are just strong enough to tangle up marine mammals, fish and birds, wrap them up and drown or suffocate them.  Pieces of plastic look just enough like potential food to be eaten… and the death toll is staggering, the numbers unbelievable.

Our sloppiness is coming home to roost.  The plastic isn’t just killing off marine life “out there somewhere” anymore.  Its toxicity is affecting us here on land as well.  

The battle needs to be fought on two fronts.  We need to start using fabric (preferably cotton or other natural renewable resource) shopping bags.  It’s really not that difficult.  Just fold ’em up and put ’em back in the car when you go out again, and you’ll have them with you next time you go shopping.  MANY other nations have either banned the bags altogether, or taxed them so heavily that they’re seldom used anymore.  China made it illegal to give them away and now uses 37 million less barrels of oil each year by having done so.  Much of Europe has given them up, often voluntarily.  Bangladesh and Rwanda gave them up long ago, and many other African nations have since followed suit.  What are we waiting for?  

The other step also needs to happen now.  That war is one we need to wage on the high seas.  We need to go out and collect our trash, police ourselves as best as we can.  Not next year, not the year after.  Not after our ship comes in.  Now.  RIGHT now.  This year, by whatever means necessary, whatever it takes.  When you’ve got that kind of toxic waste sitting out there, growing larger by the minute, there’s simply no more time left.  This is plastic.  It’s not going away by itself — Not this year, not this century. The only way that pile of trash is going to get cleaned up is if we go out there and do it ourselves.  It’s not going to be an easy job, nor a pretty one.  It’s downright disgusting, but somebody’s gotta do it, and we here at PTO are tired of talking about it.  

We’re issuing a S.O.S.  We need all the help we can get.  In the near future, Protect The Ocean will be calling upon all environmental groups, including Sea Shepherd, Greenpeace, Algalita, the Ocean Conservancy, Surfrider, and the governments of the world.  We’ll be petitioning the plastic makers and shipping companies as well, asking them for their assistance and cooperation in what will be the single largest environmental clean-up effort ever undertaken.  It’s going to be a very big, very messy job.  Some have described that area as being twice the size of Texas… but no matter how big it may be, it simply has to be done.  

We need your support — both in contacting your representatives and urging them to help us in our efforts, and in your contributions.  Let them know that you want them to help us Can The Flotsam.  Please, we can’t do it all by ourselves.  We’re going to need volunteers of all kinds.  This is HUGE.  Will you help us clean up the Eastern Garbage Patch?

Here’s a few quotes to consider:

“Plastic bags do not biodegrade, they photodegrade; over time they break down into smaller, more toxic petro-polymers” — CNN, Nov. 16, 2007

“A plastic ‘stew’ twice the size of Texas has formed in the Pacific Ocean. Scientists have dubbed I the “eastern Garbage Patch,” and its volume is growing at an alarming pace.:  Best Life Magazine, Feb. 20, 2007

“Plastic bags have been found floating north of the Arctic Circle near Spitzbergen, and as far south as the Falkland Islands.” — British Antarctic Survey

“Plastic bags account for over 10% of the debris washed up on the U.S. Coastline.” — National Marine Debris Monitoring Program

“Nearly 200 different species of sea life including whales, dolphins, seals and turtles die due to plastic bags… They die after ingesting plastic bags which they mistake for food.” — World Wildlife Fund report, 2005

We’re sending out an S.O.S.  on behalf of the oceans.  Will you heed the call?

Overfishing Reef Fish Devastates Breeding Populations

Malaysia is amongst the South Pacific destinations that are eagerly gobbling up reef fish in unprecedented numbers. Coral trout, spotted lobster, prawns, giant grouper, and many other species are all fair game for both tourist and local appetites along this string of islands. But they’re not the only ones demanding the fish. All across southeast Asia and China, the demand for reef fish is devastating their numbers in the Coral Triangle, that protected place which is home to the most dense diversity of their breeding populations.

Conservation Biology magazine, a scientific publication, reveals that breeding within the Coral Triangle, home to 3/4 of the coral species on the planet, has dropped nearly 80 percent in recent years. Overfishing is expected to be the cause. Fishermen tend to harvest most heavily when a species is spawning and congregated in great numbers for that breeding, according to University of Hong Kong biologist Yvonne Sadovy, writing on behalf of herself as well as four other nations involved in the study, including the U.S.A.

“The Coral Triangle has relatively few spawning aggregations reported in the communities we went to,” Dr. Sadovy wrote. “We think that this might be due to the more heavily fished (overall) condition of reef fisheries in many parts of the Coral Triangle, where there is uncontrolled fishing and high demand for live groupers for the international live fish trade.”

The Hong Kong reef fish market has grown into a 810 million dollar a year business, according to the Worldwide Fund for Nature, which monitors the market. Demand for exotic fish is especially high in Shanghai and Beijing. This translates to a large tourist population arriving where bargains on the reef fish can be had. Local prices are less than half of what people are used to paying in China, for example.

Over a quarter of the planet’s 161 reef species are currently threatened or near threatened, the grouper being at the top of that list. These long-living fish grow to be as much as 8 feet long in the wild, taking as long as 5 years to become reproductive, but most of them are taken to market long before they can do so. This alone accounts for their decline.

The Coral Triangle is shared by six countries: Malaysia, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Solomon Islands and East Timor. There is no specific enforcement of fishing regulations within the region, so dynamite and cyanide are both regularly used there. This equates to an even greater devastation to both the fish and the reefs that support them.

It’s essential that we come to see the breeding seasons as a special time for the fish themselves, during which they are immune to fishing, rather than seeing them as an easy and bountiful catch (as is the case with salmon in Alaska.) But alongside this, we must bear in mind that the fishermen have families to feed as well, and that this industry feeds far more than just those who eat the fish. Whatever solution we come up with must account for their needs. Simply imposing regulations will merely push the fishing underground, making a black market for them, and inadvertently making the problem worse.

What we do does make a difference. We have a direct impact upon the planet and its interconnected wildlife. It is essential that we step up to protect the ocean — for our own sakes.