Plastic Soup or Garbage Patch, whatever you call it, the obscene amount of plastic swirling around in our oceans is killing marine life and threatening our health according to Dr. Marcus Eriksen and Anna Cummins of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (http://www.algalita.org). They plan to ride down the West Coast, giving away samples of polluted ocean surface to educators, organizations and legislators to raise awareness of the problems and call for an end to "The Age of Disposable Plastic."
Dr. Eriksen, director of research and education with the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (AMRF), and Cummins, AMRF's education advisor, will pedal to 15 cities in 10 weeks for JUNK RIDE 2009, delivering dozens of presentations to educators, policymakers and the public, they'll show wrenching photographs from a decade of research at sea: a dead turtle trapped in a plastic lawn chair, an albatross carcass bulging with tooth brushes and bottle tops, the plastic stomach-contents of fish commonly served in restaurants.
The 100 samples of plastic and plankton the JUNK RIDE will hand out, were collected during previous Algalita voyages. On their most recent project, JunkRaft (junkraft.com), members of Algalita sailed from Los Angeles to Hawaii on 15,000 plastic bottles and a Cessna 310, to bring international attention to the problems of plastic debris.
The Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a Long Beach-based nonprofit organization, was founded by Captain Charles Moore, who first put the plastic soup problem on the map.
Santa Monica residents, the couple will launch JUNK RIDE 2009 at the Vancouver Aquarium, then head south for lectures on the environmental and human health impacts of plastic marine pollution. They'll stop at universities, schools, other aquariums and the like in Seattle, Sacramento, San Diego and other big cities. Their Los Angeles lecture, a collaboration with Surfrider Foundation, is slated for June 19th.
AMRF has focused its research on the North Pacific Gyre, a swirling vortex of ocean currents twice the size of the United States, in which a vast plastic buildup, or soup, is rapidly growing.
Scientists estimate that nearly half of all seabird and whale species are harmed or killed by plastic waste, either from ingestion, entanglement or strangulation. The human health risk of the plastic ocean plague is growing. Aboard JUNKraft, Dr. Eriksen collected rainbow runner fish, commonly served in restaurants, and found plastic particles in their stomachs.
In fact, Associate Anna Cummins is testing her blood for the dangerous chemicals to determine if a correlation can be made between meal time and maritime plastics. This will be documented for "Synthetic Me," a new outreach project.
Eriksen and Cummins say there is no way to clean up the plastic soup. So, their manifesto is "do no more harm." All along their route, they will work with legislators, educators and conservation organizations to promote ways to keep disposable plastics out of the ocean. They will urge everyone they meet to use stainless steel water bottles instead of single-use plastic containers and carry groceries in canvas, not plastic bags.
JUNK RIDE is a project of the Algalita Marine Research Foundation, and sponsored by Ecousable, Horizon Lines, Xtracycle, Kashi, Revolution Fitness, BringYourOwn.org, Color Service Inc., Close the Loop and Patagonia.