Published: August 08, 2012 By Martin van den Hemel - Richmond Review
"Everybody is part of the problem and everybody can be
part of the solution." said Project Kaisei co-founder Mary Crowley, who
spoke at a press conference Wednesday about the research efforts aboard
the Japanese brigantine research vessel Kaisei. It's currently docked at Britannia Heritage Shipyard and will remain here for this weekend's Richmond Maritime Festival before departing next week.
Crowley, in town with the visiting Kaisei to raise
awareness about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, said that although
scientists don't know for sure, the plastic vortex is thought to be the
size of the state of Texas, perhaps twice as large.
It consists of discarded plastic detergent bottles, water bottles, and other everyday plastic objects.
"It's like looking at your own garbage, spread out through the ocean," she told reporters.
"You can see a lot of sea life is ingesting the
plastic," Crowley said, explaining a video she presented which shows
that plastic containers slowly break up into smaller pieces, and some
are eventually ingested by sea life, such as jelly fish.
Aside from killing marine life, researchers fear the
plastic is entering the human food chain, something researchers hope to
verify and demonstrate.
Crowley said the floating garbage patch continues to grow "due to poor waste management practices on land and sea."
Rather than one solid floating mass, she described the oceanic debris field as "like an archipelago of little islands."
Coun. Harold Steves urged consumers to do their part
and stop drinking bottled water, and said hundreds of millions of
dollars have been spent on infrastructure to make Lower Mainland tap
water clean and safe.
He wondered why thermoses and paper grocery bags are less trendy today.
"The insidious thing about plastics is that it lasts
for hundreds of years," he said. "We need to make using thermoses cool
According to the Ocean Voyages Institute, only about five per cent of the world's plastics are recycled.
With 260 million tons of plastic produced globally each
year, Crowley fears the garbage patch could double in size in the next
The Kaisei departed San Francisco on July 4 and about
300 miles off the coast of Washington and Oregon made a shocking
discovery: a massive amount of debris thought to have originated from
the tsunami in Japan and that's been heading towards North America's
west coast since March 11, 2011.
Crowley hoped that media coverage about the advancing
debris field from Japan's tsunami would raise awareness about the
problem of garbage congesting the Pacific Ocean.
Mary Crowley, Executive Director and founder of the Ocean Voyages
Institute, steers the tall ship Kaisei, which has just returned from the
North Pacific where crew members tracked and salvaged manmade debris
found floating in the area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
(CARMINE MARINELLI/ 24 HOURS)There's a massive vortex of plastic debris growing
daily in the Pacific Ocean, a mountainous problem that will require an
equally immense global effort to find the solution.