Dumped fishing gear is biggest plastic polluter in ocean, finds report

Dumped fishing gear is biggest plastic polluter in ocean, finds report

SOURCE: The Guardian DATE: November 6, 2019 SNIP: Lost and abandoned fishing gear which is deadly to marine life makes up the majority of large plastic pollution in the oceans, according to a report by Greenpeace. More than 640,000 tonnes of nets, lines, pots and traps used in commercial fishing are dumped and discarded in the sea every year, the same weight as 55,000 double-decker buses. The report, which draws on the most up-to-date research on “ghost gear” polluting the oceans, calls for international action to stop the plastic pollution, which is deadly for marine wildlife. About 300 sea turtles were found dead as a result of entanglement in ghost gear off the coast of Oaxaca, Mexico, last year. And in October, a pregnant whale was found entangled in ghost gear off the Orkney coast. The fishing gear was jammed in the animal’s baleen, the filter-feeder system inside its mouth, and scientists said the net would have hugely impaired the minke whale’s feeding and movement. The report said abandoned fishing gear a particularly deadly. “Nets and lines can pose a threat to wildlife for years or decades, ensnaring everything from small fish and crustaceans to endangered turtles, seabirds and even whales,” it said. “Spreading throughout the ocean on tides and currents, lost and discarded fishing gear is now drifting to Arctic coastlines, washing up on remote Pacific islands, entangled on coral reefs and littering the deep seafloor.” Ghost gear is estimated to make up 10% of ocean plastic pollution but forms the majority of large plastic littering the waters. One study found that as much as 70% (by weight)...
Whales and dolphins found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for the first time

Whales and dolphins found in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch for the first time

SOURCE: The Conversation DATE: October 28, 2019 SNIP: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is said to be the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world. It is located between Hawaii and California, where huge ocean currents meet to form the North Pacific subtropical gyre. An estimated 80,000 tonnes of plastic are floating in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. We conducted two visual survey flights, each taking an entire day to travel from San Francisco’s Moffett Airfield, survey for around two hours, and travel home. Along with our visual observations, the aircraft was fitted with a range of sensors, including a short-wave infrared imager, a Lidar system (which uses the pulse from lasers to map objects on land or at sea), and a high-resolution camera. Both visual and technical surveys found whales and dolphins, including sperm and beaked whales and their young calves. This is the first direct evidence of whales and dolphins in the heart of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Plastics in the ocean are a growing problem for marine life. Many species can mistake plastics for food, consume them accidentally along with their prey or simply eat fish that have themselves eaten plastic. Both beaked and sperm whales have been recently found with heavy plastic loads in their stomachs. In the Philippines, a dying beaked whale was found with 40kg of plastic in its stomach, and in Indonesia, a dead sperm whale washed ashore with 115 drinking cups, 25 plastic bags, plastic bottles, two flip-flops, and more than 1,000 pieces of string in its stomach. Whales and dolphins are often found snared in debris. Earlier this...
Atlantic Ocean ‘running out of breath’

Atlantic Ocean ‘running out of breath’

SOURCE: BBC DATE: June 18, 2019 SNIP: A huge international research programme has been launched to assess the health of the Atlantic Ocean. The iAtlantic project is the biggest ever mounted in the planet’s second largest ocean.It involves more than 30 partners, funded by the EU, and is being co-ordinated by Edinburgh University. The scientists will use an array of hi-tech devices, including robot submarines, to scan the deep ocean from the Arctic to South America. They want to assess the effects of climate change on plants and animals. “What will happen to these animals in the future as the Atlantic changes?” Prof Roberts says. “As it gets warmer, as it gets more acidic and also – in some areas – as it runs out of breath. “Because the Atlantic, like many ocean basins in the world, is being deoxygenated – it’s losing the oxygen that is vital to life.” The cause is climate change, 90% of the world’s global warming has been absorbed by the...
It’s only a matter of time before deep-sea mining comes to Canada. We’re not ready.

It’s only a matter of time before deep-sea mining comes to Canada. We’re not ready.

SOURCE: The Narwhal DATE: March 26, 2019 SNIP: The deep sea, broadly considered the area of ocean below 200 metres, encompasses half of the world’s total ocean estate. To this day, just 5 per cent of the ocean abyss has been explored. It is only in the last decade that major advances in ocean-exploring technology, growing demand for metals used for tech gadgets, and the diminishing availability of these metals on land has created the burgeoning industry of deep sea mining. This year, Canadian-registered company Nautilus Minerals Inc. is slated to begin Solwara 1, an operation in Papua New Guinea that will extract seafloor massive sulphides from hydrothermal vent ecosystems in the deep sea. Each year, this operation plans to extract 1.3 million tonnes of vent and seabed material high in copper, zinc, gold and silver. Extraction requires a process of directly drilling, removing, and flattening down the vents and chimneys, essentially leaving a pile of rubble in its place. “All deep sea mining removes material from the seafloor,” says Dr. Kirsten Thompson, a marine mammal scientist and ecology lecturer at the University of Exeter in Devon, United Kingdom. “In removing this material, the habitat and species that are associated with the ecosystem are destroyed.” “For some types of mining, this destruction is irreversible on a local scale and recovery is not expected within our lifetimes,” says Thompson. Before long, Canadian and international mining companies alike may start turning their attention towards Canadian waters — that is, if they haven’t already. The Offshore Pacific Area of Interest off the west coast of Vancouver Island is of particular concern to...
UN Warns of Rising Levels of Toxic Brine as Desalination Plants Meet Growing Water Needs

UN Warns of Rising Levels of Toxic Brine as Desalination Plants Meet Growing Water Needs

SOURCE: United Nations University DATE: January 14, 2019 SNIP: The fast-rising number of desalination plants worldwide — now almost 16,000, with capacity concentrated in the Middle East and North Africa — quench a growing thirst for freshwater but create a salty dilemma as well: how to deal with all the chemical-laden leftover brine. In a UN-backed paper (“The state of desalination and brine production: A global outlook“), experts estimate the freshwater output capacity of desalination plants at 95 million cubic meters per day — equal to almost half the average flow over Niagara Falls. For every litre of freshwater output, however, desalination plants produce on average 1.5 litres of brine (though values vary dramatically, depending on the feedwater salinity and desalination technology used, and local conditions). Globally, plants now discharge 142 million cubic meters of hypersaline brine every day (a 50% increase on previous assessments). Desalination plants near the ocean (almost 80% of brine is produced within 10km of a coastline) most often discharge untreated waste brine directly back into the marine environment. The authors cite major risks to ocean life and marine ecosystems posed by brine greatly raising the salinity of the receiving seawater, and by polluting the oceans with toxic chemicals used as anti-scalants and anti-foulants in the desalination process (copper and chlorine are of major...