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Marine Plastic Debris, Our Whales, Our Water and What We Can Do About It


Throughout the world, marine species from whales to the smallest organisms are being harmed by the ingestion of or entanglement in marine plastic debris, Billions of bits, chunks and pieces of plastic have traveled climate powered ocean paths and having escaped that circuit, amassed into loose confederations or gyres corralled by the surrounding currents. Every day additional human generated trash joins to become part of the North Pacific Gyre or another gyre in a different sea. Some of the plastic kills the animal that mistakes it for food. Much smaller particles dangerously become part of the food chain. Researchers and volunteers around the world are also finding all sorts and ages of plastics washed ashore, “plastic sand” beaches and evidence that metabolized plastics threaten the ultimate consumer. Similarly, staggering amounts of plastic are now affecting the wild species we love to see in Puget Sound as was evidenced by the recent dead whale that washed up near Seattle.

The South Sound Group recently hosted an event in Olympia featuring Captain Charles Moore, the founder of the Argalita Foundation who in 1997 found the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” called the Pacific Gyre. Captain Moore has become the world’s most recognized and respected marine plastic debris expert. At a hearing in PierceCounty and speaking in Olympia, Moore warned Washington decision makers of the environmental damage caused by allowing the shellfish industry to place up to 120,000 pieces of plastic nets, bands and PVC tubes per acre for intertidal geoduck operations in Puget Sound.

The Sierra Club is working with Captain Moore to raise awareness on these issues. Often we feel helpless as we read a headline and wish we could do something. In this case, you can take action that will make a difference. Yes, it is inconvenient but… stop using plastic sacks, support banning plastic bags in our stores and encourage the use of biodegradable containers. Eliminate buying bottled water (that in many cases is just expensive tap water). When possible, make purchases from your local vendors and let stores know that you don’t wish to continue buying products that have been shipped from overseas covered in all of that plastic packaging. Willingly acquire plastic only when it can be kept out of the environment and landfills and you need the permanence and durability it offers.

Want to get involved? We’d love to have your help! Contact our South Sound Sierra Club group at info.southsoundsierra@gmail.com.