Swimming with the fishes
The coral reef ecosystems of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands suffer from contamination by considerable amounts of derelict fishing gear from North Pacific Ocean fisheries washed in by ocean currents.Greenpeace released a report last week examining the "vast vortex of plastic trash in the middle of the Pacific Ocean," so described by Reuters. The report finds that the coral reef sytems of the NWHI, the endangered Hawaiian monk seal, and, worldwide, "at least 267 species -- including seabirds, turtles, seals, sea lions, whales and fish" are vulnerable to the contamination caused by tourism, sewage, fishing and waste from ships and boats. Derelict fishing gear includes, "fishing lines and nets, fishing pots and strapping bands from bait boxes that are lost accidentally by commercial fishing boats or are deliberately dumped into the ocean."
The research predicted that most debris is moved towards the mid-latitudes. This is in agreement with observations from other studies which showed higher concentrations of debris in such areas compared to nearer the poles. It also identified areas where ocean movements results in particularly high concentrations of debris such as north of Hawaii.According to the Reuters story, Greenpeace is calling for "a global network of marine reserves, covering 40 percent of the world's oceans."
Plastic Debris in the World's Oceans
(November 2006, pdf, 44pp/1MB)
Photo Credit: © Greenpeace / Alex Hofford