Plastic chokes life of the sea
AMERICAN pro-surfer Mary Osborne has travelled to some of the most exotic beaches on earth – and has seen pollution on almost every one of them.
One of the crew of the Sea Dragon, which docked in Cape Town this week in the first trans-Atlantic plastic-research voyage in the southern hemisphere, Osborne said she was shocked by the amount of plastic they found in the ocean, often in the middle of nowhere.
These pollutants are being absorbed by marine life and are entering the food chain, ultimately ending up on people’s dinner plates.
She was speaking at the Two Oceans Aquarium yesterday along with co-founders of the non-profit 5 Gyres Institute, Anna Cummins and Dr Marcus Eriksen, who talked about the findings of their 31-day research voyage in which they sailed nearly 4 000 miles across the ocean.
Every 60 miles they collected samples using a device used to skim the ocean’s surface.
Eriksen said every one of the samples was full of “plastic confetti”. They also came across dead seabirds with cigarette lighters inside them, bottle tops, plastic bottles, crates and fishing debris.
He said plastic particles were even found in fish they caught.
Marine animals were absorbing pesticides and oil which stuck to plastic particles like a sponge.
These pollutants can cause cancer and have other negative impacts on peoples’ immune systems.
Eriksen said they were seeking answers to three questions.
“How much plastic is out there? What is the fate of this plastic? And what is the impact on marine life and ultimately on our bodies?”
The 13-strong crew of the Sea Dragon included film-makers, scientists, journalists and conservationists.
Also on board was PhD student Chelsea Rochman who is doing research into whether humans are being harmed by eating fish that have ingested plastic debris contaminated with pollutants such as DDT.
Cummins said that in the 1950s plastic was sold as a new wonder material that was cheap, durable and could simply be thrown away. “But there was no long-term plan of what would become of this material meant to last forever in ourthrow-away culture.”
Photographs show oncepristine beaches in Hawaii and Bermuda drowning in plastic.
Eriksen said consumers could make a huge difference.
“Stop buying plastic bottles and bags, take your own coffee cup and even utensils if you eat out, and put responsibility into the hands of manufacturers.”
Cape Town artist Simon MAX Bannister’s exhibition Plastikos which aims to raise awareness about pollution and its impact on the oceans is also on at the aquarium until April.
Bannister’s striking works are made from reclaimed polyethylene plastic which he collected by hand from the shorelines, roadsides and landfills of South Africa.
You can meet the crew and go on board the Sea Dragon today from 2pm until 8pm. It is berthed in the yacht marina next to the aquarium.
OCEAN WARRIORS: Co-founders of the non-profit 5 Gyres Institute, Dr Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins, next to their yacht the Sea Dragon. They have been collecting samples from the ocean to research plastic pollution levels.
SINISTER: Part of Cape Town artist Simon MAX Bannister’s exhibition which has been made from reclaimed polyethylene plastic which he collected from the shorelines, roadsides and landfills of South Africa.