Great Pacific Plastic Patch Changing the Biology of Aquatic Species

This week, Ecology Center Executive Director Martin Bourque met with Captain Charlie Moore at the California Resource Recovery Association in San Diego, CA. Captain Moore discovered the Great Pacific Plastic Patch (a mass of trash that has accumulated into an island in the Pacific Ocean), and tirelessly researches and advocates to stop plastic pollution. His keynote presentation at the conference updated his previous presentations with new information about the biological response to the massive plastic pollution problem in five of the world oceans.

“I love the Ecology Center for your consistent reminders that plastics are not really recyclable, and quickly become pollution or landfill,” he told Martin and the local press. “We need more voices like yours.”

Updates from Captain Moore included news of the surprising and rapid development of large plastic substrates becoming the host of a wide variety of coral reef species that never before existed in the open ocean. “It is like a giant floating corral reef” he said , showing photos of both corral and fish species using old crates and empty bottles as new drifting habitat. The fish have stomachs filled with impassable plastics, and have even changed their color patterns to mimic the plastic environs they now inhabit.

Moore also showed the impacts of massive industrial scale Asian fish farming operations that release unprecedented plastic pollution to the tides. Pollutants degrade into contaminants at every size and come from every continent ranging from microscopic pellets ingested by plankton and working their way up the food web, to plastic bags ingested by sea turtles, to whole water bottles and other consumer goods ingested by California’s grey whales as they strain the soft ocean bottom sediments with their baleens.

What was clear in Moore’s presentation is that our disposable plastic consumer culture is killing our oceans, and that plastics have become a significant part of the marine food chain. His solution is to radically revolutionize our production system to eliminate disposable consumer waste. Aye Aye, Cap’n! We salute you!

[Written by Martin Bourque]

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