Our Plastic Ocean: What Can We Do to Create Change?

Bonnie Monteleone
Plastic debris can negatively impact everything from the smallest animals on the planet, plankton, to the largest, blue whales.

Plastic debris can negatively impact everything from the smallest animals on the planet, plankton, to the largest, blue whales.

SolStock via iStock

Gripping the handrail of the 50-foot catamaran, careening through plastic-tainted waters in the North Pacific Ocean, I’m scared. Not for myself, but for a majestic albatross with a nine-foot wingspan as it hovers over a plastic lure we had cast. Like the dozens of fish that we have dissected since we left the Hawaii coast 20 days ago, I can foresee she was about to eat the plastic. My colleague pulled and reeled with all his might to retrieve the lure before the bird mistakenly ingested it. Millions of animals meet untimely deaths from mistakenly ingesting plastic debris. We are collecting surface samples to assess the temporal and spatial distribution of plastic particles known as microplastics. All of our 54 samples collected from Hawaii to California will tell the same story—plastic is found everywhere, including the most remote places on the planet.

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