Hi, it's Yanika!
After 2274 nautical miles, 30+ scientific experiments, 17 sunrises and many many packets of biscuits, I stand here and proudly say that I sailed across the Atlantic in order to carry out ocean plastic research. It was a tough, fun and eye-opening experience – most definitely the adventure of a lifetime.
One of the main objectives of our journey was to pass through the North Atlantic Garbage gyre, one of five rubbish hotspots in our oceans where plastic accumulates due to oceanic currents. I would never have guessed we were in the middle of a gyre. Where I had been led to expect islands of plastic, I found the clearest deep blue sea.
But then, we started our experiments and our findings told a different story. Our samples of the ocean’s surface were full of tiny, anonymous microplastic pieces. This makes the problem we are facing even more urgent. First of all, how do you prevent these microplastics from getting into the food chain? In several of our experiments, we found more microplastics than zooplankton. You have to wonder, if fish are exposed to more microplastics than larvae, what do they end up eating?
Secondly, if you had an island of plastic, we would be faced with a simpler problem. As it stands, we have a 3D massive body (the ocean!) with lots of tiny microplastics scattered about. How are we going to clean up our ocean?
In theory, each day was pretty much the same: breakfast, lunch, afternoon science, dinner, evening workshop, night watch. But in between, little things and big events took place to make every single day special. We were followed by a lone minke whale (the ones with the teeth which look like a broomstick brush), were surrounded by pods of dolphins, had a midway point party, cooked and ate some very good food, ate biscuits like there was no tomorrow, caught two Mahi-Mahi and slowly fell in love with the simple life. We had no internet and connection to the outside, and we liked it that way. It gives you a new-found appreciation for what’s important.
What can YOU do?
We are going to need a multi-faceted approach which spans education, government, industry and personal behaviours, and we are going to need it now! Please remember that we need to be refusing plastic, and that recycling will not get us out of this mess. Moreover, think about what role you can play! Can you take on education and talk to your kids about this? Can you kick-start an initiative at work to reduce the use of single-use plastic? Can you influence policy-making in your local government (or national!) to help curb misuse of plastic and waste management? Have a think. I know that every single one of us has a role to play.
Blog by Yanika