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Scenes such as this are commonplace around the world. Photo courtesy technologybloggers.org.

The Plastic Sea More and more organizations and individuals are decrying the increasing amount of plastic in our oceans—still, the plastic soup continues to grow. By Dan Dicksion

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December 2017

SOUTHWINDS

hat’s the most serious issue impacting sailors anywhere? Is it the intensification of storms such as the hurricanes that devastated so many Caribbean islands and coastal regions this year? Is it ocean acidification and warming sea temperatures that are bleaching coral reefs worldwide? Or is it something else? Arguably, plastic pollution is right up there on the short list of global issues that should be a priority concern for sailors. Anyone who’s done an ocean passage recently can attest to the fact that you’ll find much more evidence of mankind far from land than was customary only 20 or 30 years ago. The majority of that evidence floats in the form of plastic products—bags, balloons, flip flops, bottles, cigarette lighters—you name it. And the situation isn’t static. Researchers who study this issue tell us that plastic ocean pollution is increasing at such a rate that by 2050, the oceans will contain more plastic, by weight, than fish. The problem isn’t just that discarded plastic endangers sea life (i.e., sea turtles entangled in plastic six-pack collars), it’s actually much more insidious. Unlike most other manmade substances that get into the ocean, plastic is extremely durable. Some forms such as single-use water bottles reportedly take nearly 400 years to degrade. Styrofoam requires 80 years, and plastic bags take roughly 20 years. But plastic never truly disappears. It diminishes to the scale of microplastics (less than five millimeters in diameter) and eventually to nanoplastics, which are pieces at the molecular level. Anecdotal evidence and studies indicate that certain species of fish, birds and marine wildlife eat plastic. And microplastics are ingested by the smallest sea creatures— krill and even plankton. Eventually, those substances www.southwindsmagazine.com

Southwinds December 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...

Southwinds December 2017  

A free, printed sailing magazine reporting on sailing in the southeast U.S: Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama, Missi...