Thursday, July 8, 2010

Man of War or War of Man

Doing beach surveys allow us the opportunity to look at the natural life of the ocean besides the unnatural life of plastic in the ocean. Here we found a Man of War, one that I had the not-so-pleasure of experiencing their sting while out in the Pacific last year. Their tentacles can be up to 30 feet long. They look like a hot dog bun shaped soap bubble or . . . . a piece of plastic wrap. Can you tell the difference? (the one on top is an American cheese wrapper found close by) Many times our sea turtles, like one of the oldest creatures on this planet the Leatherback turtle, mistake plastic wrap for one of their favorite foods - jelly fish. Man of Wars are just one of the many types of jelly fish that they eat. Its a war trying to get these plastics out of the marine environment in order to stop the painful deaths many of our marine life experience from ingesting or getting entangled in our plastics.

Our beach surveys were cut short due to a looming sky that kept us running for cover most of the day. We planned on doing five surveys today. We didn't get to finish one.

We did, however, get the opportunity to meet up with Judie Clee who has been collecting random beach plastic debris for years. She's extremely knowledgeable about the island and the problems with plastics that plague their beaches. Here is her explanation as to why not only plastics are not washing up on their beaches like they do normally (which is a good thing), but why Sargassum hasn't either. "I don’t think there is much stranded stuff anywhere at present. Unfortunately not because there is no plastic garbage out there but because we’ve not had any Sargassum strand recently. We’ve had the cold eddy around the island for months now – resulting in low ocean temperatures and extremely low tides – wonder if this affects the flow of the Sargassum towards us??" To answer her question, Dr. Cooper found the feasibility of this explanation. "If indeed Bermuda is in the middle of a cold water ring, its possible that the surface currents are shut off or are reduced and its the currents that are one of the driving forces that send Sargassum and plastic jetsam on to gyre beaches."
For me, I want to believe that the other reason why we aren't seeing as much is because people are starting to get it. They're reducing their use of plastic and it is beginning to show in the quantities of plastic on Bermuda. I may be being naive, but what if . . . .

As Charlie Moore would ask, what is your plastic footprint?


  1. This is great insight about the plastic problem. I have been organizing beach and waterway clean-ups for United By Blue for the past 6 months and it is really eye-opening to see how many plastics and trash items look like organic material. I have just began documenting the many shells that look like styrofoam, reeds that look like cigarette butts, etc. Thanks for documenting this problem and bringing it to light!

  2. Love this. You know we have this same problem trying to figure out if certain sea plants and other natural marine organics are plastic. Every time we pick up litter (especially at Figure 8 Island) the kids always bring us a sea plant that has the feel and look of plastic! Also, when we first saw a skate egg sack we were perplexed... plastic or natural?? Thankfully natural.

    It's certainly a nice thought to have... people getting it... and they are... some more quickly than others ;) I'm working on that plastic footprint :)