Welcome everybody to Jane's blog where you are invited to share your thoughts and experiences about our beautiful Pacific Ocean. I do not want to start out on a negative note, however, I would like to thank those people who have written in expressing concern about the amount of litter that they have encountered in various parts of the Pacific.These comments are of particular concern in the light of recent reports describing the Pacific Ocean as the world's largest rubbish dump - a vast area of floating plastic debris and other flotsam drifting in the northern Pacific Ocean, held there by swirling ocean currents.
Often referred to as the great Pacific garbage patch, it is now alarming some with its ever-growing size and possible impact on human health.The "patch" is, in fact, two huge linked areas of circulating rubbish, stretching from about 500 nautical miles off the coast of California, across the northern Pacific to near the coast of Japan. Almost twice the size as continental United States, the islands of Hawaii are placed almost in the middle, so piles of plastic are regularly washed up on some beaches there. The concentration of floating plastic debris just beneath the ocean's surface is the product of underwater currents, which conspire to bring together all the junk - an estimated 100 million tonnes of plastic - that accumulates in the Pacific Ocean. Studies have indicated that about 20 per cent of the junk is thought to come from marine craft, while the rest originates from countries around the Pacific like Mexico, Australia and China. The waste forms in what are called tropical gyres - areas where the oceans slowly circulate due to extreme high pressure systems and where there is little wind. Historically, flotsam in the gyres has biodegraded..But modern plastics do not break down like other oceanic debris, meaning objects half a century old have been found in the North Pacific Gyre. Rather the plastic slowly photodegrades, becoming brittle and disintegrating into smaller and smaller pieces which enter the food chain and end up in the stomachs of birds and other animals. This is certainly a very sorry state of affairs as the small plastic particles acted like a sponge to trap many dangerous man-made chemicals that found their way into the ocean, like hydrocarbons and DDT. Eventually what goes into the ocean goes into the animals and eventually enters the human food chain exposing people worldwide to possible serious longer term health problems. Indeed syringes, cigarette lighters and tooth brushes from the "patch" have been found inside the carcases of sea birds.
The health of our planet depends upon many factors including the health of our vast Pacific Ocean. Certainly, the health of this beautiful Ocean cannot be improved if it continues to be used as nothing more than a convenient garbage dump.
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