Sunday, February 1, 2015

Last day of Surface Sampling in the Caribbean January 23, 2015

As I laid in my berth (bunk) rocking side-to-side listening to the haunting whisper of howling winds while water swished against the steel wall that separated my sheets from the salty sea, I recall the spectacular marine life display many of us witnessed yesterday of Humpback whales surfacing near the Dominican Republic.   We squealed at the sight of a mother and calf surfacing in tandem - so symbolic of this crew with three sets of mother and daughters. But the best was watching the juvenile whale breach seven times as if she equally enjoyed our visit.  Jen Palmer, who was a member of the Voyage of the Sea Odyssey crew, shared so many details on these and other whale species that we will be making a short film for educators to use.   One of the most significant details Jen provided related directly to our work - Humpbacks are baleen whales meaning the are filter feeders.  They do not have teeth and feed on the small animals in the ocean such as plankton.  Sadly they feed toward the surface, the very place we find plastic debris.  In fact, this cruise had been the first time we pulled out and/or documented more plastic bags than anything else in our marine debris study.  Plastic bags have a mandatory advisory printed on plastic bags stating that they should be  kept  away from children.  Yet, this juvenile whale’s mother will not have the option of keeping them away from her calf.  Plastic pollution is known to be lethal to most marine species including these mega ton creatures.   So you can imagine how delighted we were to hear from Jim Ries, executive director for One More Generation, that Georgia has passed Georgia's 1st bag ordinance. More and more communities are stepping up and taking action on behalf of our marine and terrestrial animals. This map provides a global view of these ordinances that will help reduce plastic ingestion and entanglement.

During our research cruise, we had 12-year-old Olivia Ries, one of the founders of OMG (One More Generation) gave us her teacher training that she provides schools on how to engage students in plastic education.  You heard me right, a 12-year-old schooling adults on plastics.  She even taught me a thing or two.  Beautiful Nation Project videotaped her session so that they can be used as Peer-to-Peer online education for schools that are signed up with their curriculum, if you haven't signed your children, school, or after school program up yet, take advantage of this opportunity.  It is free and fun learning for all ages. 

Plastic Ocean Project, Inc. completed its 7th aquatic region of sampling that night.  We have sampled through the North Pacific with Algalita Marine Research Foundation, 5 years of sampling the North Atlantic with Bermuda Institute of Ocean Sciences, South Atlantic with 5 Gyres Institute, South Pacific with the film crew from the upcoming film Plastic Oceans with producer Jo Ruxton, Pyramid Lake with the Native American Paiute Tribe in Nevada, and this week amid the British Virgin Islands, and International waters around the Dominican Republic with Beautiful Nation Project, One MoreGeneration, and Pangaea Explorations.  Why would we bore you with the rambling of names? It’s to illustrate how many impassioned groups out there willing to pool their funds to perform research, outreach, and education to schools and sea lovers.

Sorting samples Cayley, Pangaea, Tricia, POP, Inc., and Shannon, BNP