Plastic poisons ocean sourced foods

Peter Gatembu, Contributing Writer

According to the Fisheries of the United States latest statistics, the average American ate 14.5 pounds of fish in 2013, a modest 0.7 percent increase over the 14.4 pounds consumed in 2012. Perhaps fish-eaters understand the health benefits that come with it.

However, what most fish-eating American citizens don’t quite understand is that the fish we consume might have been exposed to toxic chemicals in the rivers, bays and oceans they inhabit. Toxic substances like mercury continue to cause concern because it shows up at disturbingly high levels in some fish.

The problem starts when plastic and other litter finds its way into the ocean. In 2009, the National Academy of Sciences estimated that around 6.4 million tons of litter enters the world’s oceans annually.

In the ocean waters between Hawaii and Japan is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, filled with plastic, chemical sludge and other debris that has been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Ocean’s gyre. The patch, covers an area the size of Turkey, according to Greenpeace International. We humans are entirely responsible for this mess.

When plastic particles begin to decompose into the ocean, small organisms mistakenly eat them. Small fish then consume these small organisms. This is how tocins enter the food chain.

Chelsea Rochwan, a postdoctoral researcher at the University of California, Davis, who authored a study on the amount of toxins found in fish, said, “Eventually, we will start to see those toxin contaminants high up in the food chain, in seafood and wildlife.”

A couple of years back, two voyage institutes based in Sausalito headed toward the Pacific garbage patch in a bid to try and clean up some of the waste. The scientists summarized that there is no perfect way to fish out all the trash out of the ocean without harming ocean creatures in the process.

The problem lies in our homes and back yards, and we humans have direct control as to where this trash ends up. We all need to help curb this menace littering our waters. Changing our individual behavior is key to creating less waste. 

Reusing what you can and remembering to recycle are some of the already implemented strategies that most communities and countries have already adapted, but more needs to be done. For instance, joining a beach cleaning activity is also viable in helping stop this disaster. Teaching the younger generation about waste and recycling is also another way of reducing the speed at which we are destroying our planet.

We have to stop polluting our oceans. It’s not a hopeless situation yet. Marine debris is absolutely a solvable problem because it stems from our everyday practices.