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Crucial Ocean Feeding Ground for Baby Fish Contains 7x More Plastic Than Fish
A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.
They thought that the developing fish would hang out in surface slicks, places where wind and waves push ocean surface waters together, because those slicks would also gather the plankton the fish rely on, Vice explained. They were right, but they found that the slicks also gathered something else.
Overall, the researchers found that plastics in the slicks outnumbered fish by seven to one.
The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, paint a troubling picture. The researchers found there were 12 times more plastic in the slicks than was recently recorded in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser explained. The plastics were also 126 times more dense in the slicks than they were in the surrounding waters, and the majority were less than a millimeter, what the study referred to as "prey size."
"It's these tiny pieces that are being eaten by baby fish. It's these tiny pieces that we can't even see with our naked eyes that are the problem here," Whitney told the Star-Advertiser.
The researchers also turned up evidence that the fish are eating the plastic. Of more than 600 fish dissected, 48, or 8.6 percent, had ingested plastic. The plastic was found in seven of eight fish families studied, including important commercial species like swordfish and mahi-mahi. It was also found in flying fish, which are an important part of the marine food web.
"The fact that larval fish are surrounded by and ingesting non-nutritious plastics, at their most vulnerable life stage, is certainly cause for alarm," study co-leader and NOAA oceanographer Jamison Gove told the Star-Advertiser.
It isn't known exactly how plastic will impact the developing fish, but the researchers predicted it could reduce their chances of survival and add to the threats they already face from overfishing, habitat loss and the climate crisis.
"If they're eating plastics at their first critical meal, they're filling their bellies with plastics instead of plankton," Whitney told HuffPost.
Since adult whales and seabirds have starved to death after ingesting plastics, this is cause for concern.
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Nestlé cannot claim that its Ice Mountain bottled water brand is an essential public service, according to Michigan's second highest court, which delivered a legal blow to the food and beverage giant in a unanimous decision.
A number of supermarkets across the country have voluntarily issued a recall on sushi, salads and spring rolls distributed by Fuji Food Products due to a possible listeria contamination, as CBS News reported.
If you read a lot of news about the climate crisis, you probably have encountered lots of numbers: We can save hundreds of millions of people from poverty by 2050 by limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, but policies currently in place put us on track for a more than three degree increase; sea levels could rise three feet by 2100 if emissions aren't reduced.
Poverty and violence in Central America are major factors driving migration to the United States. But there's another force that's often overlooked: climate change.
Retired Lt. Cmdr. Oliver Leighton Barrett is with the Center for Climate and Security. He says that in Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, crime and poor economic conditions have long led to instability.
"And when you combine that with protracted drought," he says, "it's just a stressor that makes everything worse."
Barrett says that with crops failing, many people have fled their homes.
"These folks are leaving not because they're opportunists," he says, "but because they are in survival mode. You have people that are legitimate refugees."
So Barrett supports allocating foreign aid to programs that help people in drought-ridden areas adapt to climate change.
"There are nonprofits that are operating in those countries that have great ideas in terms of teaching farmers to use the land better, to harvest water better, to use different variety of crops that are more resilient to drought conditions," he says. "Those are the kinds of programs I think are needed."
So he says the best way to reduce the number of climate change migrants is to help people thrive in their home countries.
Reporting credit: Deborah Jian Lee / ChavoBart Digital Media.
Reposted with permission from Yale Climate Connections.
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Chris Pratt was called out on social media by Game of Thrones star Jason Momoa after Pratt posted an image "low key flexing" with a single-use plastic water bottle.