Plastic Junk Litters our Oceans, Killing Sea Life — And it’s Getting Worse

Plastic Junk Litters our Oceans, Killing Sea Life — And it’s Getting Worse


Two masses of bits and pieces of plastic are growing larger each passing year. Most of the plastic is from North America and Asia.

The ocean may conjure up images of coral islands, gray whales and deep blue seas, but plastic junk?

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch – a collection of debris in the North Pacific ocean – is one of five major garbage patches drifting in the oceans.

Captain Charles J. Moore recently returned from a six-week research trip to the patch and was “utterly shocked” by how the quantity of plastic debris – everything from hard hats to fishing nets to tires to tooth brushes — had grown since his last trip there in 2009.

“It has gotten so thick with trash that where we could formerly tow our trawl net for hours, now our collection tows have to be limited to one hour,” Moore, founder of Algalita Marine Research and Education, told

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch actually has two parts — the Western Garbage Patch, near Japan and the Eastern Garbage Patch, located between Hawaii and California.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a collection of marine debris in the North Pacific Ocean. It is actually two distinct collections of debris bounded by the massive North Pacific Subtropical Gyre. (Image: National Geographic)


“It is the concentration of debris that is growing,” says Moore, who has been studying the patch for 15 years. Moore used aerial drones on his latest expedition to assess the amount of garbage in the eastern patch – which he said is about twice the size of Texas – and found that there is 100 times more plastic by weight than previously measured.

While you might think of a garbage patch as some large congealed mass whose borders are easily definable, it doesn’t quite work like that. Most of the garbage patch is made up of tiny fragments of plastic – notorious for being exceptionally slow to break down – and virtually invisible to the eye.

Scooping up trash at the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Much of the debris, about 80%, comes from land-based activities in Asia and North America, according to National Geographic, the remainder comes from debris that has been dumped or lost at sea. It takes about six years for the trash from the coast of North America to reach the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and about one year from Japan.

“The larger objects come mostly from Asia because they arrive there sooner before they can become embrittled and break into bits, which is what happens to North American debris,” Moore says.

These plastics can make the water look like a giant murky soup, intermixed with larger items such as fishing nets and buoys. On his latest trip, Moore said he came upon a floating island of such debris used in oyster aquaculture that had solid areas you could walk on.

Sea creatures get trapped in the larger pieces of debris and die. They also eat the smaller plastic bits, which is problematic because “plastic releases estrogenic compounds to everything it comes in contact with,” Moore says. As he wrote in a recent New York Times op-ed: “Hundreds of species mistake plastics for their natural food, ingesting toxicants that cause liver and stomach abnormalities in fish and birds, often chocking them to death.”

(Photo: Algalita)

Scientists have collected up to 750,000 bits of microplastic in a square kilometer (or 1.9 million bits per square mile) of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Most of the debris comes from plastic bags, caps, water bottles and Styrofoam cups.

Many in the scientific community agree that the best way to deal with these patches is to limit or eliminate our use of disposable plastics entirely. Moore encourages consumers to “refuse plastics whenever possible,” adding: “Until we shut off the flow of plastics to the sea, the newest global threat to our Antrhopocene age will only get worse.”

Sound off: Human industry is now noisy enough to drown out whale songs. What would happen in the ocean if we went quiet?

Sound off

Human industry is now noisy enough to drown out whale songs. What would happen in the ocean if we went quiet?

by 2700 2,700 words

A female humpback whale accompanied closely by her male calf, Toku Island, Tonga, South Pacific. Underneath her are two escort whales, both males, competing for attention. Photo Tony WuA female humpback whale accompanied closely by her male calf, Toku Island, Tonga, South Pacific. Underneath her are two escort whales, both males, competing for attention. Photo Tony Wu

Peter Brannen is a journalist whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Wired, and The Guardian, among others. In 2011, he was a journalism fellow at the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution. …

At 5:30am I awoke to the sound of the diesel chug-chugging of a lone lobster boat carving into the glassy Atlantic. An audience of shrieking gulls hushed in the engine’s wake as it rumbled through the narrow strait that separates the United States from Canada. After the boat pushed out into the open ocean, the gulls resumed their gossip, and I began preparing for a day on the water, still groggy from the night before, after joining a group of researchers over beer. I had come to Lubec in Maine with a bizarre question: what was 9/11 like for whales?

I sleepwalked to the pier and helped pack a former Coast Guard patrol boat with boxes of underwater audio-visual equipment, as well as a crossbow built for daring, drive-by whale biopsies. A pod of 40 North Atlantic right whales had been spotted south of Nova Scotia the day before and, with only a few hundred of the animals left in existence, any such gathering meant a potential field research coup. ‘They even got a poop sample!’ one scientist excitedly told me. The boat roared to life and we slipped past postcard-ready lighthouses and crumbling, cedar-shingled herring smokehouses. Lisa Conger, a biologist at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), manned the wheel of our boat, dodging Canadian islands and fishing weirs. As the Bay of Fundy opened before us, a container ship lumbered by to our stern: a boxy, smoking juggernaut, as unstoppable as the tide. :::

Mass protests in Ireland over new water charges

Originally posted on

Mass protests in Ireland over new water charges

by Simon Basketter

Published Tue 14 Oct 2014
Issue No. 2425

Part of the protest in Ireland last Saturday (Pic: Richard Boyd Barrett)

Part of the protest in Ireland last Saturday (Pic: Richard Boyd Barrett)

Protesters filled the streets of Dublin last Saturday against the introduction of water charges.

Organisers had hoped 20,000 would turn up, but in fact some 100,000 people protested.

“This day will go down in history as the day that the people decided to roar,” Independent MP Clare Daly told the crowd.

“We are here in our tens of thousands to say water is a human right, based on need, not an ability to pay.”

Brendan Ogle of the Unite union said, “It is a tipping point. It was a protest against water charges but it was also about six years of hurt, six years where the forces of austerity have pushed and pushed and pushed, and the people just…

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The Different Side To Paradise

Originally posted on hlnlivestream:

ParadiseIt’s well-known for its opulent accommodation, turquoise waters and awe-inspiring beaches. Nonetheless, these pictures unveil the darker side to the Maldives – with tons of rubbish washed up on the island’s pristine sands. Award-winning filmmaker Alison Teal, 27, toured Thilafushi – or Trash Island – a man-made island built as a municipal landfill located to the west of Malé.
Paradise2She said it was a shock to see the piles of plastic bottles floating in the crystal-clear sea and littered over the usually idyllic beaches. Partnered by Australian photographer Mark Tipple and his associate Sarah Lee, the team captured these awful images and footage to document the luxury destination’s waste problem.
Paradise3There are more than 400 tonnes of garbage thrown away on the Maldives’ island per day – a figure credited mostly to the tourist industry on which the chain of atolls relies. One visitor on an average generates 3.5kg of…

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Powerful Typhoon Vongfong to Slam Okinawa, Mainland Japan

Originally posted on

Powerful Typhoon Vongfong to Slam Okinawa, Mainland Japan

by TheSurvivalGuy Thank You!

By Eric Leister

While Japan is recovering from former Typhoon Phanfone, another powerful typhoon looms in the distance.

Typhoon Vongfong, meaning “the wasp” in Cantonese, is currently churning in the western Pacific, just east of Taiwan, with an expected path heading through the Ryukyu Islands and mainland Japan.

This dangerous typhoon has already recorded a brutal history. Vongfong brought flooding rainfall and damaging wind to the northern Mariana Islands on Sunday, local time. Wind gusts over 89 kph (55 mph) and rainfall over 75 millimeters (3 inches) were common.

Vongfong, as a super typhoon on Thursday, Oct. 9, viewed from the International Space Station (Photo/International Space Station).

Vongfong was classified as a super typhoon during the middle of the week as it moved through an area of low wind shear and very warm ocean temperatures but has since…

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Heavens to Mercurytroid

Heavens to Mercurytroid
"Mercury pollution from power plants is a national
problem that requires a national response."
 - Tom Allen

"Heavens to Murgatroyd"
 - Snagglepuss

*     *     *     *

Today's column contains critical information for
two groups of humans who eat seafood. Group one
includes women who one day plan to have children.
Group two includes men and women who do not
ever plan to give birth to a child. All others
are dismissed and no longer need to pay attention.

In 2009, the United States Department of Interior
tested mercury levels of fish in 291 American
steams which included so-called pristine waterways.
One hundred percent of fish tested contained
mercury, and one out of every four fish tested had
mercury levels in excess of safe levels determined
by the Unites States Environmental Protection Agency.

People are instructed by pseudo-experts (medical
doctors, USDA bureaucrats, and old wives who tell
tales) to eat an occasional portion of seafood,
as fish contains selenium and Omega-3 oil. On the
other hand, the same pretend-experts caution people
on eating too much fish because of the dangerous
presence of mercury in seafood. Contrary advice
from the same uninformed people can be dangerous.

The journal Science of the Total Environment has
published a revealing study in its October 15, 2014
issue regarding "Mercury-nutrient signatures in
seafood and in the blood of avid seafood consumers"
in the New York area. Roxanne Karimi and her team 
of marine scientists at Stony Brook University
collected fish and shellfish specimens taken from
Long Island, New York waters and compared compiled
data from the blood of "avid" seafood consumers
on Long Island based upon their consumption habits.

She and her fellow researchers found that those
who ate top predatory species of seafood (tuna,
bluefish, swordfish, and other large-scaled
members of the ocean topping the food scale) had
the highest levels of mercury (Hg) in their blood.

Dr. Karimi also measured levels of selenium and
Omega 3 in the blood of 285 human laboratory
subjects and found something of interest that
should make headlines. Dr. Karimi's astonishing
conclusion contradicts every medical expert taught
fishy medicine in medical school. She writes:
"These results confirm that consumers of top
predator fish obtain greater potential risk
from mercury exposure, but no greater benefit
from nutrients. Mercury may bioaccumulate in
the human body to a greater extent than
selenium or omega 3 fatty acids."

What other fascinating facts do seafood eaters
learn from Dr. Karimi's publication?

One portion of canned white tuna contains
three times the amount of mercury as does
one portion of canned "light" tuna.

One portion of Swordfish contains nine times
the amount of mercury as does an equal portion
of canned light tuna, while a equal portion of
canned light tuna contains 4 times as much
mercury as an equal portion of fresh clams.

The "safe" level of mercury in human
blood is 5.8 micrograms per liter. 
The September, 2013 issue of Annals of
Occupational and Environmental medicine
included a study in which four children
(ages 12, 10, 9, and 9) were studied by
doctors at a the Department of Medicine of
a Korean university hospital.

The children had symptoms ranging from from
mild to severe neurological disorders. Their
blood mercury ranged well above safe levels;
17.4, 20.6, 15.4, and 16.6. 

Their disorders ranged from mild attention
deficit to hyperactivity disorder, to cognitive
disorder to epilepsy. The children's weekly
consumption of fish was established at 2-3
portions per week. Scientists wrote:

"We suggest that fish consumption may be the
main source of mercury exposure, and that
mercury may have been the cause of the
neuropsychological deficits in these cases."

Note to vegetarians and pretend-vegans who
sometimes give in to temptation and eat
free-swimming non-factory farmed denizens
of the deep:

You jeopardize your health by doing something 
true vegans consider to be floundering behavior.

*     *     *     *

"Toxins love to get you while you're young. Lead,
mercury, secondhand smoke and sundry other
environmental nasties do a lot more damage when
tissue is immature, vulnerable and growing than
when it's mature and comparatively fixed."
 - Jeffrey Kluger

Robert Cohen

Russian Pilots Found Polar Bear Cub Wandering Alone in Arctic

Russian Pilots Found Polar Bear Cub Wandering Alone in Arctic

Russian soldiers have found a starving and exhausted polar bear cub, while performing a routine delivery flight in the Arctic.

21:22 01/10/2014
Tags: Eastern Military District, polar bears, Arctic, Russia

MOSCOW, October 1 (RIA Novosti) – Russian soldiers have found a starving and exhausted polar bear cub, while performing a routine delivery flight in the Arctic, RIA Novosti reported on Wednesday.

“While doing a routine delivery flight from Anadyr into Wrangel Island, pilots saw a tiny polar bear cub running across the coast. Since his mother was nowhere to be found, the pilots decided to pick up the cub”, Colonel Alexander Gordeev, head of the press service of the Eastern Military District, told RIA Novosti.

When the pilots approached the cub, the animal did not try to escape, as he was visibly tired and hungry. The bear cub wolfed down warm cereal that the pilots offered.

The cub was named “Umka”, after a famous Russian cartoon character, and was handed over to Wrangel Island natural reserve, according to RIA Novosti.

Treated wastewater from fracking potentially harmful


Treated wastewater from fracking potentially harmful
by Staff Writers
Washington DC (SPX) Sep 26, 2014

The researchers diluted river-water samples of fracking wastewater discharged from operations in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, simulating real-world conditions when wastewater gets into the environment.

Concerns that fluids from hydraulic fracturing, or “fracking,” are contaminating drinking water abound. Now, scientists are bringing to light another angle that adds to the controversy.

A new study, appearing in the ACS journal Environmental Science and Technology, has found that discharge of fracking wastewaters to rivers, even after passage through wastewater treatment plants, could be putting the drinking water supplies of downstream cities at risk.

William A. Mitch, Avner Vengosh and colleagues point out that the disposal of fracking wastewater poses a major challenge for the companies that use the technique, which involves injecting millions of gallons of fluids into shale rock formations to release oil and gas. The resulting wastewater is highly radioactive and contains high levels of heavy metals and salts called halides (bromide, chloride and iodide).

One approach to dealing with this wastewater is to treat it in municipal or commercial treatment plants and then release it into rivers and other surface waters. The problem is these plants don’t do a good job at removing halides.

Researchers have raised concern that halide-contaminated surface water subsequently treated for drinking purposes with conventional methods, such as chlorination or ozonation, could lead to the formation of toxic byproducts. Mitch’s team set out to see if that was indeed the case.

The researchers diluted river-water samples of fracking wastewater discharged from operations in Pennsylvania and Arkansas, simulating real-world conditions when wastewater gets into the environment.

In the lab, they then used current drinking-water disinfection methods on the samples. They found that even at concentrations as low as 0.01 percent up to 0.1 percent by volume of fracking wastewater, an array of toxic compounds formed. Based on their findings, the researchers recommend either that fracking wastewater should not be discharged at all into surface waters or that future water treatment include specific halide-removal techniques.