Our Dirty Ocean? Tsunami Trash. Rumors and Truth.
Report: Texas-sized floating trash heap floating to U.S.
Since the Japanese tsunami on March 11, 2011, reports have surfaced periodically in the news and on Internet about massive trash islands headed to the United States. In fact, boats, barges, fishing nets, soccer balls, wood, and plastic of all kinds have turned up on our beaches along the west coast and Hawaii.
Here are two reports:
* American Live Wire: Texas-Sized Island Tsunami Debris Headed to U.S.
* Daily Mail: Island of debris the size of Texas from 2011 Japanese tsunami is headed straight for the U.S.
But there’s more to it than the tsunami trash floating in the Pacific Ocean.
This tsunami trash is only a piece of the bigger problem: ocean and land pollution from a variety of sources. It is this larger issue that demands our attention. We can’t do much about the tsunami trash other than to report it and pick it up, but we can do something about the bigger problem.
Those rumors about a Texas-sized trash island are rubbish
source: MSN.Com Tsunami trash island is a rumor confirms NOAA
For anyone frightened by those stories about a massive trash island hitting the U.S., it’s time to relax. That’s not what’s going on. The 2011 tsunami in Japan did wash loads of debris into the Pacific Ocean, and, yes, some of it is headed here. But it’s not a 5 million-ton, Texas-sized trash pile. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which released the map above, confirmed on Twitter that “some talk” was making the rounds about an “island of debris” and clarified that there’s no evidence of huge mass of trash. It’s a misreading of the data. Phew.
But what is out there? Seventy percent of the original 5 million tons has already sunk, but there are still 1.5 million tons of tsunami debris floating around. Due to currents, much of it is headed for the West Coast of North America — it’s just not all coming at once. And regardless of where and when it might make landfall, all that debris is a concern; it’s harmful to marine life, and it can transport invasive species across the ocean. So if you’re going to fret, concentrate on that.
It’s easy enough to see how the above map, released by the NOAA, may have confused people. Japan’s 2011 earthquake and tsunami swept an estimated 5 million tons of debris into the Pacific Ocean. It sure looks like a massive heap of that trash is on course to hit California. And that’s how a number of news outlets — including Discover Magazine, Mail Online and RT — are reporting it. As Quartz put it:
“Where did that 5 million tons (4.5 tonnes) of debris go? Some of it formed a pile of debris the size of Texas. Just as that state once annexed itself to the US, this floating Texas-sized trash heap is about to join borders with the American West Coast. Nearly 32 months after the tsunami hit, it’s now around 1,700 miles off the Pacific coast, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).”
But according to the NOAA’s Marine Debris program, we’re not about to get a 51st state. As they explain on their website, 70 percent of that original 5 million tons of debris sank off shore. While it’s impossible to estimate how much of the remaining 1.5 million tons is still floating, an NOAA spokesperson told Salon that “there is no mass ‘flotilla’ of debris headed toward U.S. coasts.” The part that looks like a Texas-sized island merely represents where there’s a higher concentration of it. And the map only shows data for one date in September — because wind, waves and ocean currents make it next to impossible to forecast where, precisely, the detritus might end up.
* Tsunami Debris Hoax: Island of Trash Size of Texas Floating to US
* Tsunami debris island? NO, but tis the debris season (video)
Here’s a report from National Geographic: Ocean. Critical Issues: Marine Pollution
Recent studies show that degradation, particularly of shoreline areas, has accelerated dramatically in the past three centuries as industrial discharge and runoff from farms and coastal cities has increased.
And another report on our Ocean as “Plastic Soup” by National Geographic.
Plastic hits marine creatures with a double whammy, Moore said. Along with the toxic chemicals released from the breakdown of plastic, animals also take in other chemicals that the plastic has accumulated from outside sources in the water.
“The plastic soup we’ve made of the ocean is pretty universal—it’s just a matter of degree,” he said. “All these effects we’re worried about are happening throughout the ocean as a unity.”
Let’s all do our parts and use the formula: reduce, reuse, recycle. And use plastic and chemicals wisely in the first place.