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Polution, marine life's number one enemy spreads its negative effects on the oceans

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The Great Pacific patch was discovered in 1997 by an American oceanographer named Charles Moore. The patch is located in the northern part of the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii. It is largely composed of different types of plastic, chemical sludge and other trash that have piled up over time in the ocean. Most of The litter, mainly biodegradable, which people throw out, ends up in oceans and other water bodies. The trash is trapped in the ocean currents making it to remain and develop in the same location. The pollution has adverse effects on wildlife and other living things in the ecosystem. The effects of the pollutants on the living organisms may be long-term or short term depending on their nature to eliminate them. Over a long period, organic toxins such as DDT accumulate in the crevices of the suspended plastic debris, which, when ingested lead to the accumulation of the toxins in the food chain. When ingested these toxins pass along the food chain and after sometime they may end up into our systems.

Effects of Pollutants on the Wildlife

Plastic trash poses the most risk of the North Pacific garbage patch to wildlife. Plastic is naturally non-biodegradable. Scientists state that plastic only undergoes photo degradation, which results in its breakage into smaller particles. Marine living organisms such as small fish can easily mistake these small bits of trash as food, which they easily ingest thereby causing, harm to their bodies.

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The plastic trash in the patch affects all kinds of marine life. Plastics take a long time to decompose and most of it ends up being swallowed by marine birds and animals, including their young ones. The smaller pieces swallowed choke or end up in the stomachs of small fish where they accumulate and consequently starve them. When some of this trash is swept to the ocean shore, it affects living things there. Some of the most affected species include the Laysan Albatross that ranges across the north Pacific and breeds on the northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Almost 30% of their chicks die from starvation, toxicity and choking due to being fed plastic from their parents. The human trash appears as food to these birds. (Tanabe, Watanabi, Minhi, Kunisue, Nakanishi, & Ono, 2003, p. 403).

Scientists indicate that besides particles’ danger to living organisms, the floating plastic debris can absorb organic pollutants such as polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) and DDT from the ocean. In addition to their toxic effects, these organic pollutants are mistaken by the endocrine system as oestradiol (a sex hormone), thereby causing hormonal imbalance in the affected organism (Moore, Jones, & Lios, 2007, p. 1). Furthermore, small fish eat these plastics containing toxins, which are then eaten by large fish causing the toxins to pass along the food chain. The toxins may end up in the system of human beings who eat seafood.

Trash such as plastic bags, fishing nets and sharp plastic or metallic pieces can cause physical harm to wildlife. Ocean living organisms and birds may be entrapped in suspended plastic bags or fishing nets which end up strangling them. Sharp pieces of plastic or metallic material cause cuts and scratches on the skins of these animals, thus resulting in infections, which end up killing them. Moreover, these physical injuries may hinder the movement of these animals, thus making them more vulnerable to predation. Floating marine plastics also enhance the movement of invasive species. They attach to floating debris in one region and drift with ocean currents over long distances to other ecosystems where they cause disruptions.

Finally, these pollutants affect the process of photosynthesis of marine plants that is the main source of food for most of the marine living organisms. The floating trash blocks light from the sun, which is the main requirement for the process. The small bits affect greatly the life cycle of planktons and coral reefs, which in turn affect greatly the marine food chain. These pollutants affect other processes such as respiration in marine life. The small particles could clog up the external respiration organs of fishes, thereby preventing respiration.

Conclusion

The North Pacific garbage patch situated between California and Hawaii has greatly affected wildlife in the region. Most of the garbage constitutes of plastic materials that are carried into the water body from the dry land by rainwater and rivers. The most affected species are the Laysan Albatross, which live and breed in the region. Plastic debris breaks up into smaller bits that are ingested by fish and other organisms, thereby causing them to die from starvation, toxicity and chocking. Large, sharp plastic and metallic plastics could cause physical injuries to marine wildlife, thus affecting their movements and consequently making them more vulnerable to predation. Over a long period, significant amounts of organic pollutants such as DDT accumulate in the debris crevices, which are in turn consumed by living organisms, thus introducing the toxins into the food chain. The pollutants also alter natural processes such as photosynthesis, which is the main source of food for many living organisms.

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