By: Nir Barnea, Pacific Northwest Regional Coordinator for the NOAA Marine Debris Program
The first thing you see as you approach the Washed Ashore gallery in Bandon, Oregon, is a creation of plastic pieces and nets: Henry the Fish. When you enter the gallery and look up, an ocean gyre is above you. It is made of a bluish fishing net, and plastic pieces of different shapes and colors “float” within it. A whale bone structure made of white plastic containers is in the center. Although they are colorful, nothing is painted: there is plenty of marine debris in all shapes and colors available to give the sculptures any color in the rainbow, highlighting the message that marine debris is a prevalent problem we must address.
By: James Morioka, Guest Blogger and Field Logistics Specialist with the NOAA PIFSC, Coral Reef Ecosystem Program
The Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument (PMNM), located around the mostly uninhabited Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, includes reefs, atolls, and shallow and deep-sea habitats which are home to more than 7,000 marine species, many unique to Hawai`i. Centrally located within the North Pacific Gyre, the PMNM is particularly prone to marine debris accumulation that presents potentially lethal threats to numerous marine and avian species. For example, of the approximately 1.5 million Laysan Albatrosses located at Midway Atoll in the far northwest of the PMNM, nearly all are found to have plastic in their digestive system, and roughly one-third of chicks die due to plastic ingestion.
A plastic bag may look flimsy, but in a fight against a sea turtle, it often wins. Unfortunately, the marine debris that we find floating in our oceans and waterways all too often impacts marine life.
There are many ways that marine debris can impact marine animals. For instance, the accidental ingestion of debris is a big problem! Animals may unintentionally eat debris along with their meal, or intentionally ingest trash due to its resemblance to real food.