Day 27 S/V Kaisei: Sea Change

31 08 2009

Sunday, 30 August 2009
Lat: 38° 01’ N Lon: 123° 25’ W

“Plastics are now the most common man-made objects sighted at sea” notes the Center for Marine Conservation in a Citizens Guide to Plastics in the Ocean: More Than a Little Problem.

Mary Crowley writes:

We all know that plastics last. There is no ‘away’ when we throw plastics away. Every piece of plastic ever made is still on the planet. A polystyrene cup has a projected lifetime of 500 years before degrading into small pieces. A plastic sandwich bag takes 50 years; heavier plastic bags last even longer. Plastic toys, plates, and bottle caps can last for centuries.

Fishing nets and plastic lines, once seemed a good idea until the death toll of sea turtles, dolphins, birds, seals, myriad fish and other forms of marine life trapped in lost nets (ghost nets) became clear. Ghost nets kill all in their paths, not only sea life but also coral reefs, and are a menace to navigation.

When I am interviewed about the gyre, people ask me, “How many tons of plastic are out there?” I truthfully say, ”I have no idea.” In Sylvia Earle’s great book Sea Change, I found the following statistics that can give some idea, ”More than 20 billion pounds of plastic goods were produced in the United States in 1970, 20 years later, the volume had increased more than three fold, reflecting an increasing dependence on these attractive materials…”If one adds Canada, Mexico, Central and South America, China, Japan, Korea, Thailand, Australia, New Zealand, and the Pacific Islands, think of the billions of pounds of plastics we have to deal with in 39 years, 1970 to 2009. Where has all of this plastic gone?

The sea is our commons — the blue heart of our planet. The oceans once were brimming with life and were an amazing example of a healthy ecosystem.

After spending weeks in the North Pacific Gyre, we need to wait until the scientists have completed their shore side analysis, to share scientific results, but I can clearly state, as a citizen of the ocean world; we need to create changes, both individually and as communities, countries, companies; making international laws and national laws that preserve our oceans. Now is the time! Project Kaisei understands the vital connection between the health of the oceans and the health of our planet; between the health of the oceans and our own health. We must stop the flow of marine debris and toxins into our blue heart and clear her veins (currents) burdened by debris. We need your help and your support, from every corner of the world; to change your practices, educate your neighbor, support right policies and practices. We can and must do this!

Sylvia Earle is a scientist, explorer, diver, oceanographer, former chief scientist of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and most importantly a compelling and ardent spokesperson for preservation of the ocean ecosystems. I have known Sylvia for well over 30 years and have tremendous respect and admiration for her tireless and eloquent campaign for our oceans. Sylvia is on the advisory board of Project Kaisei. I will quote her now,

“But, if I had to name the single most frightening and dangerous threat to the health of the ocean, the one that stands alone, yet is at the base of all the others, is ignorance: lack of understanding, a failure to relate our destiny to that of the sea, or to make connections between the health of coral reefs and our own health, between the fate of the great whales and the future of humankind. There is much to learn before it is possible to intelligently create a harmonious, viable place for our selves on the planet. The best place to begin is by recognizing the magnitude of our ignorance and not to destroy species and natural systems that we cannot re-create, nor effectively restore, once they are gone.”

We all need to be part of the solution and educate our selves and others. Having had the privilege to voyage on a tall ship to the gyre and see first-hand the burden of marine debris in our oceanic wilderness, I must share the reality of the problem as dynamically as possible with you and ask you to educate others.

I want to especially thank the Captain, Mike Smith, First Mate, Adrian Thibeault-Stone, and engineer Cathy Strohecker, all of the crew, cooks, scientists, media and communications teams, particular thanks to Norton and Melanie Smith, who worked tirelessly and effectively on our passive capture technology. All 25 of us have the opportunity to help create a “Sea-Change.” I thank everyone for their contributions on the voyage and hope that your commitment to the oceans and our historic mission will continue. I thank those who have followed our voyage, via this blog, and invite you to continue participating with us to make a “sea change.” We need you, your friends, and associates.

Thank you,

Mary Crowley

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