pollution tagged posts

Is Netflix’s Seaspiracy film right about fishing damaging oceans?

A documentary about the fishing industry’s impact on sea life and the oceans has caused a lot of debate. Many viewers have been saying they will no longer eat fish after watching the film, and expressed shock at the industrial scale of fishing. Others have argued it oversimplifies a complex issue – many communities depend on fishing for their livelihoods and for food, and are in fact practising sustainable catching methods.

We looked into some of the main claims in the Seaspiracy film on Netflix. 

Claim: Oceans will be ‘virtually empty’ by 2048

“If current fishing trends continue, we will see virtually empty oceans by the year 2048,” says Ali Tabrizi, the film’s director and narrator. 

The claim originally comes from a 2006 study – and the film refers to a New York Times art...

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The Mighty Pacific Ocean Is In Serious Peril

Discarded fishing nets, or ‘ghost nets’ can entangle animals like turtles.

The Pacific Ocean is the deepest, largest ocean on Earth, covering about a third of the globe’s surface. An ocean that vast may seem invincible. Yet across its reach – from Antarctica in the south to the Arctic in the north, and from Asia to Australia to the Americas – the Pacific Ocean’s delicate ecology is under threat.

In most cases, human activity is to blame. We have systematically pillaged the Pacific of fish. We have used it as a rubbish tip – garbage has been found even in the deepest point on Earth, in the Mariana Trench 11,000 meters below sea level.

And as we pump carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, the Pacific, like other oceans, is becoming more acidic...

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Pollution wreaks havoc on corals’ immune systems

Fighting infections is hard. It’s even harder for corals also grappling with pollution.

Katherine Dougan, a Ph.D. student in the FIU Institute of Environment, found high levels of nutrients including nitrogen and phosphorous—caused by fertilizer, sewage and other human sources—are actually making it harder for corals to defend themselves against infections. And this is something they have to do a lot to stay healthy and survive.

A normal day on the reef usually results in corals getting roughed up. Fish slam into them while hunting. Sometimes, corals will become prey and get bitten. This is bad, because fish have pretty dirty mouths. Bacteria that’s left behind can get into the wound, causing an infection. Corals are usually capable of recovering, though...

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River Thames ‘severely polluted with plastic’

The River Thames has some of the highest recorded levels of microplastics for any river in the world. Scientists have estimated that 94,000 microplastics per second flow down the river in places. The quantity exceeds that measured in other European rivers, such as the Danube and Rhine. Tiny bits of plastic have been found inside the bodies of crabs living in the Thames. And wet wipes flushed down the toilet are accumulating in large numbers on the shoreline.

Researchers at Royal Holloway, University of London, are calling for stricter regulations on the labelling and disposal of plastic products.

They warn that careless disposal of plastic gloves and masks during the coronavirus pandemic might make the problem of plastic pollution worse.

“Taken together these studies show how many diff...

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Cigarette butts are polluting the ocean more than plastic straws

cigarette pollution in our oceans

Plastic straws are getting all the attention lately, with cities like Vancouver and Seattle banning the use of them. Even major corporations like Starbucks and McDonald’s have jumped on the environmental bandwagon and implemented their own plastic straw ban, citing ocean pollution. But there is a worse polluter floating in the ocean, damaging habitats, poisoning fish and costing tax dollars for cleanup and disposal, according to environmental experts.

On Monday, a report by NBC News named cigarette butts as the single greatest source of ocean pollution — surpassing plastic straws.

The filters in cigarettes are made of tiny plastic particles that take decades or more to decompose. And they serve no use...

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Island reveals rising tide of plastic waste

Inaccessible Island in the South Atlantic

A remote island in the southern Atlantic Ocean has helped reveal the scale of the problem of plastic waste facing our seas. Some 75% of bottles washed ashore on Inaccessible Island, in the South Atlantic, were found to be from Asia – with most made in China. Researchers said most of the bottles had been made recently, suggesting they had been discarded by ships.

An estimated 12.7 million tonnes of plastic end up in our oceans each year. But this figure just covers land-based sources.

The team from South Africa and Canada, writing in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), said that it had been assumed that most of the debris found at sea was coming from the land.

However, the scientists said the evidence suggested otherwise.

“When we were [on the island, called Inace...

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Warming Gases hidden in Plastic Waste

It’s your classic movie eureka moment.
Young researcher Sarah-Jeanne Royer set out to measure methane gas coming from biological activity in sea water. Instead, in a “happy accident” she found that the plastic bottles holding the samples were a bigger source of this powerful warming molecule than the bugs in the water.

Now she’s published further details in a study into the potential warming impact of gases seeping from plastic waste. “It was a totally unexpected discovery,” Dr Royer told BBC News.

“Some members of the lab were experimenting with high density polyethylene bottles looking at methane biological production, but the concentrations were much higher than expected.”

“So we realised that the emissions were not just coming from the biology but from the bottle that we were using for...

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Scientists accidentally created Mutant Enzyme that eats Plastic Waste

They found the first ones in Japan. Hidden in the soil at a plastics recycling plant, researchers unearthed a microbe that had evolved to eat the soda bottles dominating its habitat, after you and I throw them away. That discovery was announced in 2016, and scientists have now gone one better. While examining how the Japanese bug breaks down plastic, they accidentally created a mutant enzyme that outperforms the natural bacteria, and further tweaks could offer a vital solution to humanity’s colossal plastics problem.

“Serendipity often plays a significant role in fundamental scientific research and our discovery here is no exception,” says structural biologist John McGeehan from the University of Portsmouth in the UK.

“This unanticipated discovery suggests that there is room to further im...

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Ocean Pollution: Simple, Everyday Ways You Can Help Make a Difference

This is crazy: Just over 100 years ago, Thomas Huxley, who, by the way was a great biologist, said the oceans are so plentiful, they’re inexhaustible. Fast forward to today, and I’m sorry to report Thomas Huxley was mistaken.

In fact…your ocean is in more trouble than ever before.

This article is going to share with you the current state of your ocean (warning: it’s worrying) and what you can do to help protect the reason you’re alive today. Spoiler Alert: it’s simpler than you may think.

Please read it here

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Teaching the Next Generation to Fight Ocean Plastic Pollution

Students looking at ocean

The 5 Gyres Institute’s pilot program takes high school students on ocean expeditions to show them how to collect and analyze plastic trash – with the goal of inspiring careers as scientists, policymakers and advocates.

On a bright, clear morning last week, the water was calm and flat at the Newport Beach marina in Southern California. It was the perfect day for seeing marine life in the Pacific Ocean – and for collecting plastic, according to Marcus Eriksen, cofounder and research director of the 5 Gyres Institute, a Los Angeles-based ocean conservation nonprofit.

As Eriksen stood on the top deck of the Newport Legacy, a whale watching boat, 50 students and a few teachers from Animo Venice Charter High School climbed on board the lower deck...

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