In 2019, the French swimmer Benoit Lecomte swam over 300 nautical miles through the Great Pacific Garbage Patch to raise awareness about marine plastic pollution. Scientists onboard the ship supporting his swim sampled the water along the way, finding high concentrations of neuston, or organisms living at the water’s surface.
“Every time I saw plastic debris floating, there was life all around it,” Lecomte said.
The ‘patch’ is less of a garbage island and more of a soup of plastic including bottles, fishing nets, tires and toothbrushes. Floating near the surface were a wide range of sea life including blue dragon nudibranchs, Portuguese man-o-wars, and neuston.
“The density was really staggering,” said Rebecca Helm, assistant professor at the University of North Carolina and co-author of the study. While Helm believes large-scale removal of the plastic using nets may be harmful to sea life, other experts, including Laurent Lebreton, an oceanographer with the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, say it’s imperative to keep removing it.
“You have to take into account the effects of plastic pollution on other species. We are collecting several tons of plastic every week with our system — plastic that is affecting the environment,” he explained.
One thing that is imperative, however, it to stem the tide of plastic currently infiltrating our oceans. Here are some of the ways you can help.
1 - Reduce or eliminate your use of plastic
Ditch single-use plastics like straws and water bottles, buy loose fruit and veggies instead of those wrapped in plastic, look for eco-friendly alternatives to cling wrap, phase out your old plastic containers gradually, and set up a subscription to a home toilet paper delivery. We have collated some of our favourite tips here.
2 - Help clean up our waterways
Head to your nearest beach or waterway and collect any plastic waste you find. There’s plenty of great initiatives such as Take 3 For the Sea which explain how you can help. It can be a really fun ‘scavenger hunt’ type activity to do with kids of any age!
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3 - Celebrate World Ocean Day
World Ocean Day is celebrated on June 8, 2022, and offers a great opportunity to learn and get involved in helping our oceans. Find out more at the official World Oceans Day website.
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