The Global Fool

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The European Seafloor: More Litter Than We Thought
May01

The European Seafloor: More Litter Than We Thought

By Roberta Attanasio We’re all familiar with the global threat of ocean pollution — and the widespread presence of plastic on beaches and in the great garbage patches. However, until very recently, we did not know that marine litter is present in large amounts on the seafloor, in the deepest areas and at very remote locations. Marine litter is defined by the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) as ‘‘any persistent, manufactured or processed solid material discarded, disposed of or abandoned in the marine and coastal environment”. Results of a survey published in the scientific journal PLoS ONE on April 30, 2014, reveal the magnitude of the problem. Researchers gathered data from surveys carried out during research cruises led by various European institutions between 1999 and 2011. A total of 32 sites were surveyed — in the northeastern Atlantic Ocean, Arctic Ocean and Mediterranean Sea — at depths ranging from 35 meters to 4.5 kilometers. The sampling methods used for the survey included imaging technology (still photograph and video) as well as fishing trawls. The researchers found litter at each site surveyed, with plastic accounting for 41% and discarded fishing gear for 34% of it. In addition, they found glass, metal, wood, clothing, pottery, paper and cardboard, as well as unidentified materials. The most prevalent litter item found on the seafloor was plastic (bottles, bags, etc.), whereas discarded fishing lines and nets were particularly common on underwater mountains, banks, mounds and ocean ridges. It is commonly believed that most plastic items float at the sea surface — in reality, an estimated 70% of the plastic that reaches the ocean sinks to the seafloor. Indeed, results from the survey show that, for example, litter is present at larger density on the seafloor of the Mediterranean Sea as compared to the litter floating at the surface. Kerry Howell (Plymouth University’s Marine Institute), one of the researchers involved in the study, said in a press release “This survey has shown that human litter is present in all marine habitats, from beaches to the most remote and deepest parts of the oceans. Most of the deep sea remains unexplored by humans and these are our first visits to many of these sites, but we were shocked to find that our rubbish has got there before...

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Do Sea Turtles Eat Plastic Marine Debris? Yes!
Aug10

Do Sea Turtles Eat Plastic Marine Debris? Yes!

By The Editors Floating marine debris accumulates in five main oceanic gyres. These debris accumulations consist mostly of plastics and are called great garbage patches. In recognition of the global threat posed by the great garbage patches, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) has recently granted them a symbolic State status, and officially recognized the Garbage Patch State. Marine debris gathers in drift lines and convergence zones, which are also important feeding areas for many oceanic species, including sea turtles. Now, results from an analysis of global research data from the past 25 years show that green and leatherback turtles are eating more plastic than ever before. The analysis was carried out by researchers from from the University of Queensland and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation, and published in the scientific journal Conservation Biology on August 5, 2013.   According to the authors of the study, “The likelihood of a green turtle ingesting debris nearly doubled from an approximate 30% likelihood in 1985 to nearly 50% in 2012”.   The authors conclude: “Our results show clearly that debris ingestion by sea turtles is a global phenomenon of increasing magnitude.” Study leader Qamar Schuyler says that man-made debris must be managed at a global level, from the manufactures through to the consumers – before debris reaches the ocean. An estimated 80 per cent of debris comes from land-based sources, so it is critical to have effective waste management strategies and to engage with industry to create appropriate innovations and controls to assist in decreasing marine debris. Again, it is necessary to decrease our plastic footprint....

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Plastic Debris and Great Garbage Patches: Ca’ Foscari University Raises Awareness of Ocean Pollution
Jul16

Plastic Debris and Great Garbage Patches: Ca’ Foscari University Raises Awareness of Ocean Pollution

By Roberta Attanasio When we think of the Great Garbage Patches — of which 5 exist — we usually think of ocean pollution. Now, when thinking of garbage patches and ways to raise awareness of them, we may think of Venice and Ca’ Foscari University. Venice, the Italian city that seems to float on water, bears no resemblance to the vast concentrations of floating marine debris that makes up the garbage patches.  However, you can find an artistic representation of the garbage patches right in the heart of the city and, more precisely, right in the courtyard of the world’s oldest existing building granted LEED certification. Let’s go one step at a time. What is LEED certification? LEED, or Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design, is a program that provides third-party verification of green buildings. The world’s oldest existing building to obtain LEED certification is the more than 500-years old Palazzo Foscari, the location of Ca’ Foscari University administrative headquarters. The courtyard of the green and sustainable Palazzo Foscari is an appropriate home for the Garbage Patch State art installation, which has been set up by artist Maria Cristina Finucci in collaboration, of course, with Ca’ Foscari University. The goal of the installation is to draw attention to the global problem of ocean pollution. Ca’ Foscari’s focus on sustainability-based initiatives is the result of the environmentally-forward mastermind of Carlo Carraro.  Carraro is President of Ca’ Foscari University, Professor of Econometrics and Director of the International Center for Climate Governance. Why a Garbage Patch State installation? The world’s oceans are heavily polluted by marine debris, mostly consisting of small bits of floating plastics. These bits are called microplastics and derive from the degradation of larger plastic debris. Indeed, most commonly used plastics do not fully degrade in the ocean — rather, they break down in smaller and smaller pieces. Marine debris becomes trapped by the circular ocean currents of the five gyres, where it builds up to form giant garbage patches. The Ca’ Foscari installation is called “The Garbage Patch State Venice” in honor of the Garbage Patch State — a State that includes the five garbage patches corresponding to the five gyres. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) granted the “Garbage Patch State” symbolic statehood in April thanks to the effort and commitment of Maria Cristina Finucci. The microplastics that make up the majority of garbage patches are almost invisible to the naked eye. Similarly, the giant patches of garbage are not captured by satellite imagery or aerial photographs. In addition, not all the trash floats on the surface. Denser debris is located under the surface. According to...

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“The Throwaway Society Cannot Be Contained – It Has Gone Global”
May08

“The Throwaway Society Cannot Be Contained – It Has Gone Global”

By The Editors The title of this post says it all, and it says it all through the words of Charles J. Moore, the oceanographer and racing boat captain that first discovered the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. In the video below, a 2009 TED TALK, Captain Moore focuses on the growing, choking problem of plastic debris in our seas.  You can visually see the harm caused to different life forms. The extent of this problem is enormous, and we’ll be talking more about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch in posts soon to come. In the mean time, please watch...

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