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Marine Debris: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

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Ryan Carr

on 10 May 2010

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Transcript of Marine Debris: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch Marine Debris Definition: Marine debris is something in the marine environment that doesn't naturally occur there

- Marine debris tends to accumulate at the center of ocean currents and on ocean coastlines, which is known as beach litter or tide wrack
Great Pacific Garbage Patch - Contains approximately 3.5 million tons of garbage

- Also know as the Pacific Trash Vortex

- It is a gyre of marine litter in the central North Pacific Ocean
- Gyre: a circular pattern of
currents in an ocean -Although numerous cleanup situations have been proposed, most researchers have come to a consensus that the only solution is prevention

- Due to the widespread nature of the plastic particles and a cleanup operation's drastic impact on the marine life, we can't simply go out and scoop up all the debris

-Debris will continue to accumulate unless we stop using such a great deal of plastic, stop using as many disposable items, and start disposing of our waste correctly and responsibly Organizations Helping With The Clean-Up What You Can Do To Help Solutions: Prevention and Clean-Up Environmental Clean-Up Coalition (ECC):
Formed to address the issue of North Pacific pollution
Collaborates with other groups to identify methods to safely remove
plastic and persistent organic pollutants from the oceans

The Ocean Conservancy:
Reported that on its most recent annual waterway cleanup, in September 2008, volunteers retrieved 6.8 million tons of trash, mostly from inland waterways, in 104 countries

Project Kaisei:
A project recently launched in March 2009 to study and clean up the garbage patch
In August 2009, two vessels (New Horizon and Kaisei) embarked on a journey to research the patch and determine the feasibility of commercial scale collection and recycling

Algalita Marine Research Foundation:
Launched the JUNK raft project, which was a sailing voyage from June to August 2008 to highlight the plastic in the patch

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA):
Aimed at supporting national and international effort focused on preventing, identifying, and reducing the occurrence of marine debris
Aimed to protect and conserve our nation’s natural resources, oceans, and coastal waterways from the impacts of marine debris.

Scripps Institution of Oceanography:
Spent 19 days on the ocean in August, 2009 researching the patch
They took samples and spread awareness; two steps essential to the cleaning-up process - Limit your waste by composting, reducing and reusing whenever you can

- Make sure that any plastic bottle that you use is recycled

- Bring your own reusable water bottle and fill it with water when needed

- Try to avoid plastic, instead go for an environmental friendly, as well as safe

- Be aware of where your garbage goes and ends up
Prevention Steps By State Alaska:
- "Green fee" for plastic bags

- Bill to require major retailers to offer plastic bag

Texas (Austin):
- Bill to target retailers offering plastic bags

- Dangers of Ocean Plastic Lectures Laws and Regulations Summary

While their are many laws used to control marine debris, there is no legislation to guarantee that these laws are followed.
Along with laws, efforts to regulate the marine debris are used by the coastal states and U.S. territories and commonwealths.
The states have comprehensive programs to control the marine debris.
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) develops the regulations for federal laws that directly or indirectly deal with marine debris.

- Marine debris washes, blows, or is released into the water from coastal areas or farther inland

-This debris comes from:
- Individuals
- Facilities and factories
- Municipalities
- Natural disasters Natural Disasters:
- Tornadoes, hurricanes, floods, and tsunamis, can all generate and carry debris into the marine environment.

- During the 2005 hurricane season, the Sabine National Wildlife Refuge in Louisiana had approximately nine million cubic yards of debris across 1,770 acres of marsh.

- Anything from roofs to plastic straws, depending on the severity and scale of the event. The most common items include containers and other unsecured outdoor items. Natural Events
- Inclement weather, strong seas, and natural events can cause accidental loss of waste and cargo from vessels and other structures at sea.
- This debris may be lost due to inadequate securing of equipment and poor loading practices The IMDCC is a group of people responsible for creating and recommending approaches to reduce the sources and impacts of marine debris to the nation’s marine environment, natural resources, public safety, and economy. The IMDCC, co-chaired by EPA and NOAA, promotes the coordination of Federal agency marine debris activities both nationally and internationally, as well as recommends research priorities, monitoring techniques, educational programs, and regulatory action. Interagency Marine Debris Coordinating Committee (IMDCC) SHORE PROTECTION ACT
Provided controls on transport vessels to prevent the release of municipal or commercial solid wastes into coastal waters. FEDERAL WATER POLLUTION CONTROL ACT AMENDMENTS OF 1972
Also known as the Clean Water Act.
Established pollution discharge regulations for U.S. waters
Set water quality standards
Gave the country’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) authority over pollution control programs. BEACHES ENVIRONMENTAL ASSESSMENT AND COASTAL HEALTH ACT (B.E.A.C.H. ACT) 
Amended the Clean Water Act, requiring adoption of minimum healthbased water quality criteria, comprehensive water testing and public notification when water contamination levels are unsafe. COASTAL ZONE MANAGEMENT ACT
Authorized NOAA to approve/fund state programs that regulate land based pollution discharges and works to preserve, protect, develop, restore and enhance the United States’ coastal zone resources through state coastal management planning.
Gave the U.S. Coast Guard and EPA domestic authority to implement the London Convention in regulating the dumping of materials into ocean waters. INTERNATIONAL CONVENTION FOR THE PREVENTION OF POLLUTION FROM SHIPS (MARPOL)
Created international guidelines to prevent ship pollution.
MARPOL has six annexes covering oil discharge, hazardous liquid control, hazardous material transport, sewage discharge, plastic and garbage disposal and air pollution
Annex V controls the disposal of plastics and garbage into the oceans from ships. NOAA ACT TO PREVENT POLLUTION FROM SHIPS (APPS)
Gave the U.S. Coast Guard the authority to develop regulations and enforce MARPOL Annex V, including the discharge of garbage and plastics from ships.
The Act applies to all U.S. flag ships anywhere in the world and to all foreign vessels operating in U.S. waters or while at a port or terminal under U.S. jurisdiction.
The Act also establishes regulations for operational discharges and dumping of wastes from vessels.
Made it illegal to throw plastic trash off any vessel within the U.S. Exclusive Economic Zone (within 200 nautical miles of the shoreline).
It is also illegal to throw any other garbage overboard while navigating in U.S. waters or within three miles of shore. CORAL REEF CONSERVATION ACT
Authorized NOAA to provide assistance to any U.S. state, territory or possession that contains a coral reef ecosystem within its seaward boundaries in removing abandoned fishing gear, marine debris and abandoned vessels from coral reefs.

Established programs within the NOAA and the US Coast Guard to help identify, determine sources of, assess, reduce, and prevent marine debris and its impacts on the marine environment and navigation safety. Timeline of Laws and Regulations Formation of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

- North Pacific Gyre rotational pattern draws in waste material from the shorelines of the North Pacific Ocean, including the coastal waters off North America and Japan.

- As material circulates in the current, wind-driven surface currents gradually move floating debris toward the center-taking up to 15 years to make it from shore to center.

- The increase in plastic consumption is directly contributing to the growth of the Patch. Plastic is light, it floats, and it is essentially indestructible.

- Plastic does not biodegrade

- The Great Pacific Garbage Patch will continue to grow as we continue to throw away plastic.
Case Study: Charles Moore
A crew of researchers led by Charles Moore went to explore the Patch a few years back and decided to take back some of the debris they found, including the following:

* A drum of hazardous chemicals;
* An inflated volleyball, half covered in gooseneck barnacles;
* A plastic coat hanger with a swivel hook;
* A cathode-ray tube for a nineteen-inch TV;
* An inflated truck tire mounted on a steel rim;
* Numerous plastic, and some glass, fishing floats;
* A gallon bleach bottle that was so brittle it crumbled in our hands; and
* A menacing medusa of tangled net lines and hawsers

- The plastic to sea life ratios are 6:1
- Currently no cohesive plans to clean up the mess.
- Charles Moore estimates that 80% of the garbage comes from land-based sources, and 20% from ships at sea. Land-Based Sources of Pollution Breaking Down The Different Sources Individuals:
- Can be accidental or deliberate

- Leave garbage on piers/boardwalks or throw into ocean

- Throw trash on street or improperly manage their waste and garbage bins
- Trash on streets can lead into storm drains, rivers, and other waterways
and can then be carried into the oceans. Facilities:
- Debris from industrial and manufacturing facilities, construction and
demolition sites

-Production, equipment, trash disposal, and waste streams are improperly managed

- Industrial by-products, particularly plastic resin pellets, may also become marine debris during transport or disposal

- Debris items such as scrap metal, unused parts, paint buckets, and packaging materials often become marine debris if appropriate disposal practices are not followed or if equipment or supplies are left unsecured at construction site Municipalities:
- Combined sewer systems and stormwater systems can carry debris into coastal and ocean waters, especially during heavy rain events.

- Debris can be picked up during rain flow and carried into a drain or may have been intentionally thrown into a drain.

- Debris entering these systems include medical waste and street litter. Ocean-Based Sources of Pollution
- Sources include vessels and other structures and natural events

- Similar to marine debris originating from land-based sources, debris from ocean-based sources is a result of accidental or deliberate human actions. Breaking Down The Different Sources Vessels:
- Marine debris can come from mismanagement of ship wastes and equipment, or from accidental loss of gear overboard. This debris can consist of food containers and trash from the galley, fishing gear (e.g., nets, ropes, and light sticks), cargo and equipment.

- Abandoned vessels and offshore materials and equipment
- Pieces of aquaculture installation and buoys What Makes Up The Great Pacific Garbage Patch? Impacts - Marine debris impacts the environment, economy, and human health and safety.

- The extent of the impacts is determined by the type of marine debris and where it settles in the ocean.

- Regardless of the type or the location of the marine debris, it can have serious impacts. Environmental Economic Human Health and Safety - Marine debris impacts humans by endangering health and safety.

- Beachgoers can be injured by stepping on broken glass, cans, needles or other items.

- Similar to marine organisms, swimmers and divers can also become entangled in abandoned netting and fishing lines.

- Passengers on vessels that strike or become entangled in floating or submerged marine debris may be injured or killed if the vessel is damaged or disabled. - Environmental impacts are wide ranging and can be both direct and indirect. Direct Indirect - Direct impacts occur when marine life is physically harmed by marine debris through ingestion or entanglement or marine debris physically alters a sensitive ecosystem Ingestion - Seabirds, sea turtles, fish, and marine mammals often ingest marine debris that they mistake for food.

- Ingesting marine debris can seriously harm marine life.

- Ingestion can lead to starvation or malnutrition.
- When the marine debris
collects in the animal's
stomach, it causes the
animal to feel full.

- Starvation also occurs when ingested marine debris in the animal's system prevents vital nutrients from being absorbed.

- Internal injuries and infections may also result from ingestion.

- Whales and sea turtles often mistake bags for squid

- Birds often mistake plastic pellets for fish eggs

- A study of 38 green turtles found that 61% had ingested some form of marine debris including plastic bags, cloth, and rope or string Entanglement - Marine life can become entangled in marine debris causing serious injury or death.

- Entanglement can lead to suffocation, starvation, drowning, increased vulnerability to predators, or other injury.

- Marine debris can constrict an entangled animal's movement which results in exhaustion or development of an infection from deep wounds caused by tightening material. Ecosystem Alteration - The direct impacts of marine debris are not limited to mobile animals.

- Plants, other immobile living organisms, and sensitive ecosystems can all be harmed by marine debris.

- Coral reefs can be damaged by abandoned fishing gear that breaks or suffocates coral.

- Plants can be smothered by plastic bags and fishing nets.

- The ocean floor ecosystems can be damaged and altered by the movement of an abandoned vessel or other marine debris. Environmental impacts can also be indirect, such as when a marine debris cleanup results in ecological changes. Ecosystem Alteration - Efforts to remove marine debris can harm ecosystems.

- Mechanical beach raking uses a tractor or other mechanical device to remove marine debris from beaches and marine shorelines and can adversely impact shoreline habitats.
- This removal technique can be harmful to
aquatic vegetation, nesting birds, sea turtles,
and other types of aquatic life.
- Beach raking also can contribute to beach
erosion and disturbance of natural vegetation
when the raking is conducted too close to a dune. Invasive Species - Marine debris can contribute to the transfer and movement of invasive species.

- Floating marine debris can carry invasive species from one location to another.

- Invasive species use the marine debris as a type of raft to move from one body of water to another.

-In a study performed by the British Antarctic Survey in 2002, it was estimated that man-made debris found in the oceans has approximately doubled the number of different species found in the subtropics. - Marine debris can harm very important components of the economy

- Economic impacts are felt through loss in tourism dollars and catch revenue, as well as costly vessel repairs. Tourism - Marine debris is unsightly and unwelcoming to beachgoers, which can result in lost revenue from tourism.

- In severe cases, marine debris can even cause beach closures.

- The costs to remove and dispose of the marine debris can be high and the loss of tourism dollars can be even higher. Case Study: Los Angeles In an attempt to stop the draining of trash to the ocean, the Los Angeles County's Department of Public Works and the Flood Control District spends $18 million each year on street sweeping, catch basin cleanouts, cleanup programs, and litter prevention and education efforts Navigation and Shipping - Floating marine debris is a navigational hazard that entangles propellers and clogs cooling water intake valves.

- Repairing boats damaged by marine debris is both time consuming and expensive. Fishing and Agriculture - Fisheries experience significant economic impacts from marine debris.

- Commercial fisheries are impacted when commercial fish and shellfish become bycatch in lost fishing nets or other fishing gear.

- The Gulf States Marine Fisheries Commission has predicted blue crab ghost fishery leads to a loss of up to 4 to 10 million crabs a year in Louisiana alone.

- Fisheries also can be financially affected when fishing gear and vessels are entangled or damaged by marine debris.

- The high cost of replacing fishing gear and vessels, as well as loss of days at sea for fishing, can cause small fisheries to go out of business.
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