Thursday, September 27, 2007

September 26, 2007

Today, as we approached the phytoplankton bloom than may be associated with debris, that we were asked to sample by NOAA, two crew members independently reported the occasional odor of red tide, although there was nothing visible in the water from above to indicate an algal bloom. Upon hauling in a 1.5 hour manta trawl, we were shocked to see what appeared to be the highest ratio of plastic to zooplankton ever sampled. It would not suprise me if it was over 1000 to one, plastic to plankton (see photo). We did several other manta trawls, all with orders of magnitude more plastic than our 1999 study. We also stopped to pick up a tire with a heavily rusted metal rim, covered in algae and barnacles. The amouint of larger plastic pieces floating by continues to astound the ship's crew. We took one liter samples of sea water preserved in 1% formalin for later plankton ID, and in the evening, as we made sail during a squall, the crew was treated to a full arch "moonbow," a rainbow illuminated by the full moon, showing dim rainbow colors. Tomorrow we sample an arm of the phytoplankton bloom.
Aloha from ORV Alguita.


Hi! my name is Tiara & I am one of Ms.Tatreau`s students at George Washington High. Is there any law that says that you should dispose of plastics properly? If so ,why isn’t it being enforced powerfully? Also is debri in the ocean really contributing to global warming? (George Washington High, Guam)

Hi Tiara, there is an international treaty, a law of the sea, created by the International Maritime Organization (IMO). The IMO is sort of like a United Nations for the sea. The have a series of regulations on Marine Pollution by ships called MARPOL. In Annex V, there is a prohibition on dumping plastic anywhere in the ocean, and any country who signs the treaty
is supposed to make sure the ships registered there obey the law. Two factors mitigate against powerful enforcement of MARPOL. One is that countries often do no have the ability to monitor what ships are doing with their plastic waste at sea, the other is that ports where the ships call may not care whether they are obeying the law and bringing their plastic back
with them, or they may not have facilites to take the plastic waste. Another factor that makes MARPOL less than powerful is that some countries didn't sign the treaty, so they are not bound by the rules. As far as laws on land go, there are no specific laws regulating how plastics should be treated after they are used. It might not be a bad idea to create restrictions on how plastics are used and discarded in general.

With regard to your second question, plastic waste is not likely a major factor in global warming, but there are two ways it may be contributing to it. One is covering the sea floor. Plastic waste is beginning to create an impermeable layer to CO2 at the bottom of the ocean where it is normally sequestered. If CO2 can't make it into the pore waters of the sediments on the ocean
floor, it will not be taken out of the atmosphere as quickly. Secondly, plastic floating in the ocean, which we can testify is widely present, blocks solar radiation into the ocean which feeds the phytoplankton, the plants which are primary producers of oxygen. So less oxygen and more CO2 means more global warming.

Hola Tiara, existe un tratado internacional, la Ley del Mar, creada por la Organizacion Internacional Marina (IMO, por sus siglas en ingles). La IMO es una especie de Naciones Unidas para el mar. Ellos tienen una serie de regulaciones en Contaminacion Marina por los barcos llamada MARPOL. En su Anexo V, hay una prohibicion de tirar desechos plasticos en cualquier parte del oceano y se supone que todos los paises que firmaron este tratado no deben permitir que sus barcos desobedescan esta ley. Sin embargo, existen
dos factores que disminuyen la accion de esta ley encabezada por MARPOL, uno es el que los paises involucrados muchas veces no tienen las facilidades de monitorear que es lo que sus barcos estan haciendo con sus desechos plasticos cuando estan en el mar. La segunda, es que en los puertos donde los barcos llegan puede que no se tenga el cuidado de verificar si estan obedeciendo esta Ley y esten regresando sus plasticos al arribar, o simplemente no se cuente con contenedores para dejar la basura plastica. Otro factor que hace que MARPOL tenga poco poder es que algunos paises no firmaron este tratado, asi que en su derecho no tienen porque seguir las reglas de este tratado. De la misma manera que en las leyes terrestres, no existe leyes especificas para la regulacion de como deberian de tratarse los plasticos despues de su uso. Definitivamente, no seria mala idea crear restricciones en como los plasticos deberian de ser tratados despues de su uso y de su desecho en general. Con relacion a tu segunda pregunta, los desechos plasticos no son parte del principal factor en calentamiento global. Sin embargo, ellos pueden contribuir en dos formas, una es cubriendo el suelo marino. Los desechos plasticos estan creando una capa impermeable de CO2 en el fondo del oceano donde este es normalmente, secuestrado. Si el CO2 no puede ir a los poros de agua de los sedimentos marinos, este no podra ser expulsado a la atmosfera muy rapido. El segundo factor es que con los plasticos flotando en el oceano, el cual podemos testificar esta altamente presente, estan afectando los bloques de radiacion solar en el oceano que alimenta al fitoplacton, las plantas marinas que son los principales productores de oxigeno. De este modo menos oxigeno se producira y habra mas CO2 que nos lleva a incrementar el calentamiento global.

Where were you (Lat/Long) when you began to feel the shift in pressure and younger debris? [In reference to the post about the different rings of debris] (Brooksbank Elementary, Canada)

September 24, Latitude 32 46 N Longitude 146 46 we left the two inner rings of nearly equal high pressure, 1029-1024 millibars. From then until today, 9-26, we haven't stopped seeing plastic in all sizes, forms and colors. We've seen so much waste plastic that we are ashamed for the ecological havoc we are causing with our plastic contamination of the ocean. We've also taken trawl samples and seen how much more plastic there is than life. What is this telling us, the animal that reasons?

Septiembre 24, Latitud 32 46 N Longitud 146 46 W, dejamos los dos primeros
anillos de mas o menos igual alta presion, 1029 - 1024 milibars. Desde este dia hasta hoy , Septiembre 26, no hemos dejado de plastico por doquier en todos tamanos, formas y colores. Hemos; visto pasar tanto desecho plastico que sentimos verguenza por el desastre ecologico que estamos provocando con esta terrible contaminacion plastica. Tambien hemos tomado muestras de fragmentos plasticos y nos hemos llevado la sorpresa desagradable de encontrar mas
plastico que organismos, que es lo que esto nos esta indicando:? que mas necesitamos saber convencernos del gran dano que este desecho plastico esta produciendo y que nos esta afecta de alguna manera a nosotros la raza pensante?
NOTA: este mensaje fue escrito sin acentos.


Paul Clarke said...

You can *smell* red tide??? I've seen these algal blooms along British Columbia's coastline at times, one summer being remarkable for such a widespread shellfish closure...every anchorage was rose-coloured... but I've never smelled it. Perhaps this is late in the bloom and there are a lot of dead cells decomposing on the surface??

ORV Alguita said...

Yes, at times red tides can be quite stinky (ask Florida residents they know.) Often the really strong odors are due to eutrophication caused by the red tide that leads to depletion of oxygen in the water and subsequently to the death and decay of many fish and other species.