Ocean Action Hub

17 Jun 2019 - Plastic waste is impacting our oceans and our land on a massive scale. The urgency of the moment calls for all the players on the field — individuals, governments and businesses — to make contributions to the effort. Anyone and everyone can play a role in trying to ensure a brighter future for our planet and for the amazing life that it sustains.

By Jean Case, Chairman of the board of trustees, National Geographic Society’s

“Can you see it?” the young scientist asked as I struggled to focus on the image through the microscope. I was visiting an important laboratory in Honolulu, Hawaii, where a team of scientists from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are tackling a truly daunting and vexing problem: marine plastics and debris. The object of my attempted focus was a larval fish, part of a larger collection of young fish ranging from larval stage to 10 days old, that, while so small you need a microscope to see them, are particularly important to our oceans as we know them. My inability to focus in that moment had nothing to do with the technical settings of the microscope, but rather with the tears welling up in my eyes.

I had come to the lab to meet the team after reading about their work in our May 2019 issue of National Geographic magazine. The focus of the article is microplastics and the threat they represent not just to young marine life, but to a broader ecosystem that relies on healthy stocks of young fish. Just as the article conveys, the scientists described their work collecting samples from a thin slick of surface water just off the shore of the Hawaiian Islands. Teeming with sea life and organic particles, nowadays these slicks also contain abundant amounts of tiny plastic that the fish scoop up along with the organic sources of fish food. As National Geographic has chronicled, plastics are routinely found in the stomachs of marine life — from the smallest marine life to even the largest whales, some of which have washed up on shores with scores of plastic bags obstructing their digestive tracts.


CONTINUE READING ONLINE HERE: https://blog.nationalgeographic.org/2019/05/21/through-the-lens-of-a-microscope-how-plastics-are-impacting-our-oceans/

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Publication date: 
Publication Organisation: 
National Geographic
Publication Author: 
Jean Case
Thematic Area: 
Marine pollution