Plastic Pollution
August 20 2012

Plastic Problems Under The Surface

by Bill Hickman

If a tree falls in the woods does it make a sound?  Yes.  If litter sinks to the seafloor is it still marine debris?  Of course it is.  Many people simply look at the shoreline or glance at the surface to determine how clean a beach or other marine environment appears.  What some people are starting to document more often is how our ocean, bays and lakes can double as basins for litter.

A reef cleanup last month by seven volunteer dive boats in Florida gathered 357 pounds of debris.  The worst items were the fishing lines and plastic bags, said Karen Bohnsack, who supervises the marine debris program for the Florida Department of Environmental Protection. It organized the cleanups along with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and Palm Beach County Reef Rescue.

"Anything that would entangle an organism or that something might mistake for food" is a problem, she said. "Plastic bags are an issue for sea turtles, and they can also entangle the coral and rub back and forth, and that can kill the actual coral animal."  (Plastic bag covering fire coral on Graceland Reef off North Miami Beach. Photo by Heather Flint)

In England, ten members of the British Sub-Aqua Club (BSAC) plunged beneath the waves and returned with a trove of rubbish.  The divers performed two clean-up dives, one from shore and the other on the wreck of HMS Scylla in Whitsand Bay.  The frigate was deliberately sunk upon decommissioning in 2003 to form an artificial reef.  Even at a depth of 25 metres however there was no escaping the tide of debris. Divers described the wreck surrounded by "plastic lying around".

An easy way to help is to take our Rise Above Plastics Pledge and remember to Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!