Monday, March 29, 2010

Cheers to successful research!

With plastic in glasses, we toast to our 7 successful trawls we've conducted so far. In two weeks, and over 2000 miles, we have made a few simple observations. 1) There’s plastic in every trawl. 2) There’s more plastic waste as we near the center of the Indian Ocean Gyre. 3) There’s no practical way to clean up the ocean. Once you’ve been here you understand that all solutions begin on land. Cheers, Marcus

Answers to student Questions

Ahoy Ship2Shore mates, Anna here, with a few answers:

Heather from River Ridge High School, Florida wanted to know what we eat every day: unlike other voyages that we’ve been on, this boat has a full, equipped kitchen, and even a chef from Holland who prepares our meals! It’s an unusual luxury for us. Last night we had a big green salad, with tomatoes and goat cheese, alongside a fish fillet, and pork roast for the meat eaters. Having fresh produce 2 weeks into a sea voyage is incredible for us! By this time, were used to cabbage and onions being the only produce left.

We haven’t had much luck with fishing on this stretch – though we haven’t been trying hard. Sometimes we tow a line behind the boat, but no bites since before Perth. There just aren’t as many fish in our seas due to overfishing.

Another University High (Los Angeles, CA) student wanted to know how this plastic may affect fish: Algalita has found on past voyages that some foraging fish called “Myctophids” or “Lantern fish” are eating plastic along with the zooplankton they are used to eating. Lantern fish live in a deeper, dark region of the ocean called the “Mesopelagic” zone. At night, when they are safer from possible predators, they come up to the surface to find food. Unfortunately, they are finding more plastic near the surface as well. This is a relatively new discovery, so scientists aren’t yet sure how this affects them, or what the longer-term impacts on humans via the food chain are.

Kent (University High, CA), you asked how many fish die from plastic: again, we’re not sure how this plastic affects fish. We guess it can’t be good for them – if they eat too much plastic, they might feel full and not eat their regular food....or they might have problems swimming, with all this buoyant material in their stomachs. We have much to learn!
Anthony (University High, CA), we’re having a great time at sea. Life on the open ocean is very different from our busy, chaotic lives back in the city. We don’t have cell phones, TV, or internet. We’re surrounded by an endless view of blue water, which gives you an appreciation for the fact that our earth is mostly water. We do spend time at our computers – writing our blogs and working on other projects. Sometimes we help the crew with sailing – yesterday we climbed way up on the mast, inched out on the yard arm, and helped the crew tie up loose sails – a bit scary, but also fun. And when were not working on anything, we read, chat with other passengers, learn about other research on board, or just stare out to sea and think about how crazy and wonderful life can be.

Shardae and Uriel (University High, CA) wanted to know how to get rid of plastics and save sea animals: this is where we want you to do some thinking. You’ll see some past answers on our blog about how to reduce our use of disposable plastics, but we’d love to know your thoughts. How could you personally help – either in your everyday life, your family, or your school? Are there plastic products that you use and throw away often? What are some alternatives?

Marcus here, with a few more answers…

Q: “I also think that we should try to not throw plastic into the ocean because its very bad for the animals inn the ocean and they sometimes think its food do they end up eatying it and die :/ how does plastic affect the environment? university high school, united states, california 9th, Jennifer

A: How does plastic affect the environment? Plastic breaks apart into millions of small particles, like confetti. They float for decades and are eaten by fish. But before fish eat them, the plastic particles soak up other pollutants, like PCBs, DDT, DDE, and PAHs. These chemicals are called persistent organic pollutants. They come from pesticides, oil drops from cars, smog, and many different chemical industries. These pollutants do not mix with water, but stick to plastic floating in the sea. What happens when fish eat polluted plastic? This is what we want to learn later this year when we collect fish from the South Atlantic Ocean.

Q: “Its good to see that you have been cleaning up the oceans, But how did you guys find the fishes all dirty? University High School Gal United states California

A: We are actually not cleaning up the ocean. That is unfortunately a nearly impossible, and certainly impractical, task. To save the ocean from plastic we must act on land. That means we do everything we can to keep non-biodegradable plastic from being used for throwaway products, like plastic bags. You asked about fish. We collected 671 fish two years ago, looked in their stomachs and found plastic. 35% had plastic in their guts. This is alarming. I don’t want plastic in my sushi.

Q: “Seeing that you guys are on a ship and you are learning how to climb,are you out of shape? - Shabaka Johnson, 9th Grade, University High School, Los Angeles, CA, US”

A: We’re not out of shape, although we don’t get enough exercise here. We do climb a lot. This ship is amazing. It’s a Clipper ship, like the ones built 150 years ago. It has 29 sails. Yesterday we had to climb 75 feet in the air and stow a few sails away. You’re tied to the mast, but it’s still swaying back and forth, making you hold on tight. But with regard to exercise, I can’t wait to go jogging as soon as we arrive in Mauritius.
Q: “My question is why doesnt isnt there teams sent out to clean the ocean that would make more jobs and make the the ocean cleaner University High School U.S.A CA 9th grade Christopher

A: We can’t clean the ocean. Our planet is 70% ocean. Plastic is broken apart in to many billions of pieces as big as grains of sand. It’s nearly impossible, and certainly impractical, to clean the ocean. The ocean is simply too big, and you can’t take plastic out of the ocean without taking out the marine life that lives there. Also, the plastic is not all clumped together. Imagine trying to collect a hand full of sand spread over a football field of area.

What would you do… sweep it? Now imagine sweeping 9 million football fields in the North Pacific alone! Change MUST begin on land. If you want to clean the ocean, start in your neighborhood. Does your school use plastic forks, straws or Styrofoam trays? Get your school off the plastic habit. Use paper instead. Get rid of straws. Use metal utensils. Bring your own lunch. You are the change. What will you do?

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