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Wednesday, 6 April 2011

Cleaner Seas if You Please

There is a lot of what there shouldn't be in our oceans. We all are guilty at some time in our lives of adding to the pollution of our blue planet, whether conscious of it or not. I have been thinking over this subject for some time now. It's hard not to when you are sailing along upon the endless blue blanket. The sun beam only broken by the ripples in the water and a mass of polypropylene rope, cola bottles, can holders and a shopping bag all fighting for their presence around your propeller. Or indeed in a dolphin's windpipe.

This jumbled mass of debris, of Jetsam and trash, is a tiny teeny taste of what is here within our beautiful blue bays and endless seas.

The Largest human made object lies within the North Pacific spanning the distance from Japan to Hawaii. There is a chance that the majority of us have added to it's construction.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is believed to be over twice the size of Texas and have a predicted mass of 100 million tonnes of plastic.
Plastic may well take centuries to degrade, but as it does so, chemicals are released in to the area. Particularly one called Bisphenol-A (BPA). It has been linked to changes in the hormonal systems of affected animals.


Project Kaisei (meaning sea star) was launched in 2009! Two vessels, the New Horizon and Kaisei are undertaking research to determine and propose a feasible method of cleaning up this titanic problem. It will also aim to pose solutions for the prevention of more waste entering the Oceans. This is very good news indeed. Maybe they can team up with Blest, who can now reverse engineer plastics into various stages of oil to be used from machine lubrication through to cooking!

Oil rigs and ships are responsible for about 12% of the reported 806million tonnes of oil entering the oceans each year. This is from drilling, spills and leaks from within this industry. In 2007 there were a reported 654 accidental spillages from ships, mostly less than 2 tonnes though this was still 30% higher than the previous year.
A poor effort. I believe it is cheaper to pay the fine rather than fix the problem.

Natural leaks occur in our seas. Erosion of sedimentary rock on the sea floor and other such phenomenon contribute 2% (17.2 million tonnes) of the oil lost in the sea.

A massive 44% of it comes from land. From industry, agricultural and municipal wastes.
Oil runoff from roads is too a huge contributing factor. A city with the populous of Bristol could wash away up to the same amount of oil in a year as a large tanker spill.


There are companies involved in the clear up of oil. Unfortunately there are some companies that are so good at it they must unfortunately get a lot of practice!
The New Journal of Environmental Science and Technology released an article on 'Skimmer technology'. A skimmer looks like the front of a steamroller, albeit mounted onto a boat. As the wheel spins the pad picks up oil, A scraper dumps the oil into the boat. Latest technology has created Skimmers 3 times more efficient than what they were. Picking up 100% of the oil that they come into contact with!  Unfortunately they're not yet being used at every spill.

Toxic Wastes were dumped in the sea for so long and in vast quantities. Such things as radioactive waste, chemical pollutants from industry and agriculture. It was such a huge problem that dumping of extremely hazardous materials such as these was made illegal (with minimal acceptions) in 1972 at the London Convention.

This has had a profound effect upon our environment. This includes our land based one as much as the Ocean we can enjoy. As all waste breaks down it get's into the food chain. Contaminated mammals eating contaminated fish eating contaminated sponges eating contaminated algae. The ocean has seen so much pollution that it can be traced to the food at our fish counter. In very small quantities yes, but it is still there.
When fertilisers are washed off into the sea the localised area there are excess nutrients. Oxygen levels drop and the flora and fauna die leaving dead zones. The most famous dead zones are areas of the Baltic Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

As a water loving species, we need to take more care of it. The Ocean's health teaters upon the cusp of a breaking wave and we are in a great position. A gift that will help us to determine just how hard this wave breaks and how soon. Shall we get off now and swim belly up and smiling with the dolphins and starfish? Or do we ride it further, to the end? Where we shall be able to look back from the beaches and headlands and see nothing?

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