Ocean ‘garbage patch’ is filled with fishing gear from just a few places

The bulk of large plastic bits in the North Pacific garbage patch have been lost or discarded by fishing vessels.

Freda Kreier

Nature | September 01, 2022

A crate with Japanese text on it was among the plastic debris collected by researchers studying the North Pacific garbage patch.Credit: The Ocean Cleanup

Fishing gear from just five regions could account for most of the floating plastic debris in the ‘North Pacific garbage patch’, a vast swathe of the North Pacific Ocean that holds tens of thousands of tonnes of plastic.

A study published on 1 September in Scientific Reports1 found that up to 86% of the large pieces of floating plastic in the garbage patch are items that were abandoned, lost or discarded by fishing vessels. The finding is counter-intuitive, given that most marine plastic makes its way into the ocean through rivers.

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This early ocean predator was a giant ‘swimming head’

Rachel Fritts

Science | September 08, 2021

The mothership has landed. Two years after scientists dubbed one of Earth’s first sea-dwelling predators the “Millennium Falcon” for its sci-fi carapace, the same researchers have identified an even larger spaceshiplike creature at the same site, in Canada’s Burgess Shale. The half-meter-long arthropod, described in a study out today, was essentially a giant “swimming head” that prowled the Cambrian seas half a billion years ago, says Joseph Moysiuk, a paleontologist at the University of Toronto (U of T) who helped uncover the fossil in 2018. “The first word that comes to mind when I think of this new species is big.”

Titanokorys gainesi, whose head takes up nearly half the length of its body, was covered in a domed, spike-tipped carapace that inspired its Latin name: “Titan’s helmet.” The creature likely swam along the ocean floor, Moysiuk says, flushing prey from the mud with appendages built like “baskets of spines” (see video, above). And whereas its spiky helmet might have helped with that digging, its eyes, which sat at the back of its carapace, facing straight up, would have been useless for finding prey. Those were probably for spotting other predators—threats to Titanokorys itself.

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Think all your plastic is being recycled? New research shows it can end up in the ocean

Monique Retamal, Elsa Dominish, Nick Florin and Rachael Wakefield-Rann

The Conversation | March 03, 2020

Man puts items in binsResearch shows plastic meant for recycling often ends up elsewhere. Shutterstock

We all know it’s wrong to toss your rubbish into the ocean or another natural place. But it might surprise you to learn some plastic waste ends up in the environment, even when we thought it was being recycled.

Our study, published today, investigated how the global plastic waste trade contributes to marine pollution.

We found plastic waste most commonly leaks into the environment at the country to which it’s shipped. Plastics which are of low value to recyclers, such as lids and polystyrene foam containers, are most likely to end up polluting the environment.Read More »


Triple Crisis in the Anthropocene Ocean

Part Two: Running Low on Oxygen

Ian Angus

Climate and Capitalism | September 20, 2020

Red dots mark coastal ‘dead zones’ where oxygen has plummeted to 2 milligrams per liter or less. Blue areas in the open ocean have the same low-oxygen levels. Source: GEOMAR Helmholtz Centre for Ocean Research Kiel.
“Ocean deoxygenation is the 3rd but less-reported member of an evil climate change trinity, along with global warming and ocean acidification. It is not so much another shoe dropping out of our CO2 emissions as it is a large boot kicking ocean ecosystems, with significant knock-on impacts for hundreds of millions of people who depend on the oceans for a living, and with feedbacks on climate.” —Skeptical Science[1]

The ocean is losing its breath, with deadly effects on marine life and the biogeochemical cycles that shape the entire biosphere.

Since 1960, low-oxygen areas in the open ocean have expanded by 4.5 million square kilometers, an area the size of the European Union. Some regions have lost 40% of their oxygen, and the volume of water containing zero oxygen has more than quadrupled. The ocean is losing about a billion metric tons of oxygen every year. At present rates, the decline in life-giving ocean oxygen will triple by 2100. Add that to the rapidly growing number of coastal dead zones, and we have a life support emergency.

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Triple Crisis in the Anthropocene Ocean

Part One: Corrosive Seas

Ian Angus

Climate and Capitalism | September 7, 2020

Introduction. It is impossible to overstate the importance of the ocean to life on Earth. Covering 71% of the planet’s surface, it contains 97% of the world’s surface water and is central to the great biogeochemical cycles that define the biosphere and make life possible. Marine plants generate half of the world’s breathable oxygen.

Millions of species of animals live in the ocean. Seafood is a primary source of protein for three billion people, and hundreds of millions work in the fishing industry.Read More »


Ocean Warming has Seafloor Species Headed in the Wrong Direction

 Erik Stokstad

Science | September 07, 2020

The range of blue mussels has shrunk considerably as the ocean has warmed and changed how their larvae are dispersed by currents. ANDREW J. MARTINEZ/SCIENCE SOURCE

As the world warms, many species of plant and animal will have to find new—often cooler—places to live. But things are trickier for sedentary marine creatures like snails, worms, and clams, according to a new study. It finds that in the Northwest Atlantic Ocean, many species are spawning earlier in the year, when currents take their larvae southward and into warmer waters—the wrong direction. For some of them, including the sand dollars beloved by beachcombers, this means their range is shrinking.

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Masks, gloves – the ocean is filling up with COVID trash

by Joseph Winters

People’s World | June 19, 2020

Masks, gloves – the ocean is filling up with COVID trash
Plastic gloves, face masks and other waste seen here by Antibes, southern France. | Operation Mer Propre via AP

Are oil companies the true heroes of the COVID-19 pandemic? That’s sure what they’d like you to think. In a recent flurry of “corporate reputation advertising” highlighted by Emily Atkin in the newsletter HEATED, oil and gas companies, plus the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers (AFPM) — an industry group that counts Chevron, Exxon, Citgo, and many others among its members — put out a series of Twitter ads arguing that, since oil and gas companies supply petroleum to manufacturers of face masks, hand sanitizer, and protective suits, they are helping keep the population safe and healthy.

The industry is “supplying armor in the battle against COVID-19,” one ad from AFPM claimed. “The central role of petrochemicals in health care underscores why the U.S. government classifies the petrochemical industry as critical infrastructure.”

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Promoting gender equality a ‘crucial contribution’ in effort to restore, protect our planet’s oceans

UN News | June 08, 2019

Arne Hoel/World Bank
Oceans and seas are home to vast biodiversity. A woman in Entebbe, is photographed on the shores of Lake Victoria, Uganda.

Women are engaged in all aspects of interaction with our ocean, yet their voices are often missing at the decision-making level, the head of the United Nations cultural agency said on World Oceans Day, emphasizing that “we must ensure diversity and gender inclusiveness at all levels” to set a balanced course for humanity and foster innovative solutions for the ocean.

“We need to empower each and every citizen to take care of the ocean and enable all women to play transformative and ambitious roles in understanding, exploring, protecting and sustainably managing our ocean”, said Audrey Azoulay, Director-General of UNESCO, pointing out that this year’s “special edition” of World Oceans Day links the themes of gender equality and ocean preservation.

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Ocean degradation accelerated by global warming

by Henry Allan

Several recently released studies have documented the accelerating changes to Earth’s oceans as a result of climate change, including a reduction in the oxygen content, which is threatening vast swaths of marine life. One of the most prominent is an article in the February 25 issue of Scientific American, headlined, “The Ocean is Running Out of Breath, Scientists Warn.”Read More »

UN Ocean Conference: a roadmap for sustainable use of oceans

by Vibha Varshney

Down To Earth | 04 June, 2017

                    SDG 14 targets to end overfishing and conserve the marine ecosystem (Credit: Derek Keats/Flickr)
SDG 14 targets to end overfishing and conserve the marine ecosystem (Credit: Derek Keats/Flickr)

The United Nation’s Ocean Conference is set to commence at the body’s headquarters in New York on June 5, world environment day. The meeting is a step ahead in achieving the world’s 14th Sustainable Development Goal (SDG 14)—conserve and sustainably use the oceans, seas and marine resources for sustainable development. It will see participation from over 5,000 delegates and continue till June 9.

The UN plans to finalise the text for its zero draft “Call for Action” by the end of the conference, along with reports of seven partnership dialogues planned during the meeting. In addition, stakeholders have been invited to give voluntary commitments to ensure that the oceans remain clean and provide a robust blue economy.

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