Can you imagine going on a vacation and coming to the beach only to see that instead of water, you can only swim in garbage? It's not the script of some movie, it's the reality that can and is affecting all of us. It's the reality that sea animals are experiencing every day.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch or Garbage Island is a mass containing marine debris and is approximately the size of Texas. This "island" is located in North Pacific ocean, between West Coast of North America (between the states Hawaii and California) and Japan. It concentrates in various regions in the North Pacific. The trash mass consists mostly of plastic. With plastics not being biodegradable, but just breaking into tinier and tinier pieces, some of which humans are not even able to see (microplastics), the issue not only affects the ocean surface, but also its floor. It's been said that about 70% of marine debris sinks to the bottom of the ocean, making it even more dangerous to the marine species. Scientists are still unclear how much garbage there is as it is nearly impossible to measure it.
How did all this trash end up there exactly? Nearly 80% of that trash comes from land-based activities. The majority of this debris (about 705.000 tones) is fishing nets. There are also plastic bags, plastic water bottles and bottle caps. The sea animals are exposed the most with dolphins, whales, sharks and turtles leading the list of affected animals. Majority of these animals die after they either consume the litter it or get strangled by it. They ingest plastic because they mix it with food they usually eat. For example, it is very easy to mistake a plastic bag for a squid. Ironically, they starve with their stomach being full. Not so obvious, but just as dangerous, is that the food chain changes, as well. The trash blocks sunlight from reaching planktons and algae below, with this risking the collapse of the entire system.
Just as it affects animals, it affects us, too. Less food for fish and turtles equals to less food for us, which can introduce whole new range of issues. Causally, population decreases, so seafood will be less available and more expensive. However, not even this can overshadow the true issues such as pollution, increased sea animals deaths and generally endangering marine life.
This is an ongoing problem that needs human involvement so it can be solved. We must realize that we are sharing this planet with other species too, and their survival is crucial for our and our planet well being. It is important that not only coastal countries get involved, but population in general should take action. In the last few years, conscience and engagement has grown but governments can’t do all the work. There are several examples of inventions made for this cause. The first one is a bucket called The SeaBin that removes trash and oil out of the sea, and it is invented by two Australian surfers. Another one is a V-shaped system designed by Boyan Slat, a 17-year-old, and it is made specifically for cleaning the Pacifics Garbage Patch. Are these examples the solution to this problem? We cannot say it just yet, but it certainly is a good start.