We are taking ten water samples from various locations around the Big Island, as well as on the east and west coasts of Florida, in order to study the sources, composition and distribution of micro plastics pollution and how it impacts our local marine life, focusing on sites where our local Manta alfredi species are known to feed. The water samples that we take will be sent to Micro Plastics researcher, Abby Barrows, who will then use a scientific process to identify micro-plastic in our water samples. We will use that data to wrap up our short example of how micro plastics are affecting the Big Island and its marine life.
Microplastics are divided into three rough categories: micro fragments, the fragmented pieces of macro plastic, microbeads, tiny plastic particles that are present in many face soaps, body washes and toothpastes, and then microfibers, the plastic fibers used in your clothing, bedding or towels. -Plastic waste that enters our oceans breaks down at an alarming rate.
These plastics, from your childhood rubber duck to the hundreds of mechanical pencils you’ve used, instead of decomposing, fragment into smaller and smaller pieces of plastic. When plastic breaks up through photodegradation and weathering, it also acts as a ‘sink’, or a sponge, for toxic substances that are persistent, bioaccumulative and toxic (PBTs). These chemicals, which include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) and polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs), resist degradation in the environment so they can last for several years to several decades. Furthermore PAHs, a proven cancer-causing substance, are present in all environments as the toxin is released any time organic matter is burned. It is an invisible toxic affect, less easy to detect but equally as scary. As contaminants attach to plastics, and as these plastics get eaten by animals, the contaminants bio-magnify, meaning the most vulnerable animal to the effects of toxic plastic contamination is the one at the very top of the food chain -- US!
If you eat seafood in any fashion whatsoever, the plastic problem and the global plastic contamination has relevance to you. Aside from being unsightly, when plastics, especially micro-plastics, wash into the shallows or onto land, they are often mistaken for food by birds, fish and other marine animals. Recent scientific studies say the plastics could pose chemical as well as physical threats to marine animals.
Visitors can ensure that they are not contributing to the problem of marine plastics in Hawaii by being conscious of how much plastic they use while they are here as well as at home on the mainland.
1. Get a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
2. Bring a reusable bag.
3. Reduce and refuse single use plastics all together to utilize your power over excess waste in your life and our oceans.
Watch the video from our last sample location at Garden Eel Cove, Kona Hawaii on 4/17/2016