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Our Environment

Water is undoubtedly the most precious natural resource that exists on our planet. It covers about 75% of the earth's surface and without this compound of hydrogen and oxygen, life on this planet would not exist. It is essential for everything on our planet to grow and prosper. Although most of us are aware of this, we disregard it by polluting our rivers, lakes, streams, and oceans and are subsequently harming our planet to the point where organisms are dying at an alarming rate. If we keep on our current pace, more water species will perish and our ability to live our lives as humans will become very difficult, and maybe impossible.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a giant patch of submerged floating marine litter and is located in the central North Pacific Ocean. Great Pacific Garbage Patch Some scientists suggest that the patch is bigger than the area the size of the state of Texas , but the exact size is unknown. The estimated size is determined by a higher-than normal degree of concentration of pelagic debris in the water and is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of plastic continers, chemical sludge, and other debris that have been trapped by the currents in the upper water column of the North Pacific Gyre.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was predicted in 1988 when a paper published by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration of the United States submitted the results obtained by several Alaska-based researchers. The Garbage Patch was actually discovered by a man named Charles J. Moore. While he was returning home through the North Pacific Gyre after competing in the Transpac sailing race in 1997, he came upon an enormous stretch of floating debris. Moore alerted the oceanographer Curtis Ebbesmeyer, who subsequently dubbed the region the "Eastern Garbage Patch" (EGP).

It is thought that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch formed gradually as a result of marine pollution gathered by oceanic currents. The garbage patch occupies a large and relatively stationary region of the North Pacific Ocean bound by the North Pacific Gyre (a remote area commonly referred to as the horse latitudes). The gyre's rotational pattern draws in waste material from across the North Pacific Ocean, including coastal waters off North America and Japan. As material is captured in the currents, wind-driven surface currents gradually move floating debris toward the center, trapping it in the region.

Some of these long-lasting plastics end up in the stomachs of marine birds and animals, and their young, including sea turtles, and the Carcass on Kamilo Beach Black-footed Albatross. Like fish, birds that troll the Pacific consume tiny plastic bits, as shown in this albatross carcass from Kure Atoll. A 1987 study published in the Marine Pollution Bulletin found that 90 percent of albatross chicks on Oahu and Midway contained plastic in their digestive systems. Besides the particles' danger to wildlife, the floating debris can absorb organic pollutants from seawater, including PCBs, DDT, and PAHs. Aside from toxic effects, when ingested, some of these are mistaken by the endocrine system as estradiol, causing hormone disruption in the affected animal. These toxin-containing plastic pieces are also eaten by jellyfish, which are then eaten by larger fish. Many of these fish are then consumed by humans, resulting in their ingestion of toxic chemicals. Marine plastics also facilitate the spread of invasive species that attach to floating plastic in one region and drift long distances to colonize other ecosystems. Research has shown that this plastic marine debris affects at least 267 species worldwide and a few of the 267 species reside in the North Pacific Gyre.

Garbage on Kamilo Beach

On the southern tip of Hawaii's Big Island's, for example, the Garbage Patch continually pushes its contents onto Kamilo Beach, completely covering it in certain areas. There are now enough plastic particles that the layers of plastic trash push into the top layer of sand. Algalita Research Foundation founder Charles Moore estimates that more than 90 percent of the trash on Hawaii's beaches is not generated in the Islands. The featured photo here dipicts a shark carcass laying on Kamilo Beach amidst an array of plastic items ranging from fishing string to 5 gallon buckets. The amount of trash outnumbers sand grains until you dig down about a foot.

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