Tag Archives: Ocean protection

The Ocean Cleanup project: the best intention of the century!

By Angelina Cecchetto on 17th April 2013

There are many good and bad news every day when it comes to nature and ocean conservation and one of the best news of the year for me is the newly added species of sharks and manta rays on the CITES list of endangered species but I must say that the “Ocean Cleanup” project is by far the one which gives me the biggest thrill of all of them simply because I am aware of the huge problem we are facing with omnipresent plastic and garbage pollution and should this project materialize it could make a well needed difference to worldwide plastic pollution.

Some of you may or not have heard of the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” also called “Pacific Trash Vortex”. It is a gyre of marine debris mainly made of pelagic plastic floating in the seawater; its size is estimated between 700,000 square kilometers (270,000 sq mi) to 15,000,000 square kilometers (5,800,000 sq mi). The source of the debris is mainly land-based but also ocean based (from ships). There are 5 gyres in the world.

The result is dramatic for the marine life, plastic ending up in the digestive system of many birds, turtles (turtles mistake floating plastic bags for jelly fish and end up eating whole plastic bags) and other sea organisms but also on us as floating debris absorb organic pollutants that end up in fish and therefore in our alimentation.

The “Ocean Cleanup” project is led by Boyan Slat an Aerospace Engineering student at the Delft University of Technology who also happens to be a very inspired diver. As the name clearly states, his project is to clean up the ocean garbage patch.  In 2012, The Ocean Cleanup Array has been awarded Best Technical Design at the Delft University of Technology, and came second at the iSea Clash of the Concepts sustainable innovation award by the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and the Environment. The project which is still in study and testing phase is quite promising. The idea is to use huge floating booms like telescopic arms instead of nets to funnel all the plastic debris floating in the ocean. One of the great points of the project is to use the surface currents to help funnel the debris avoiding the by-catches as the booms would divert the debris and not catch them. Beyond the sustainability aspect of the project, from a business perspective what is interesting is that it could potentially be financially profitable.

A very good example of plastic recycling has been made by “Method” a producer of cleaning products who marketed a dish soap whose container is made partly of recycled ocean plastic[1].

According to Boyan Slats calculations the cleanup method he is working on could potentially clean up the garbage patches in 5 years which would be a miracle considering the situation. For the moment, we cannot be sure of the results as Boyan Slats mentions on his website, they are at about 1/4th of completing their feasibility study so the whole study is far from over.

I truly hope that Boyan Slats project will materialize and will successfully help overcome the garbage patches in the ocean however, should the project not materialize yet, I must say that it is great to see that the young generations are aware of the current global situation and are actively involved in finding solutions. Without mentioning the fact that once more, divers help and contribute to valuable ocean conservation projects maybe because diving makes them ever so aware of the underwater invaluable beauty and biodiversity but also of the daunting presence of plastic and garbage in the oceans.

Cleaning the ocean would be a virtually miraculous step forward and would put us back onto the planet’s sustainability path; not just for us humans but for all the others forms of life on this planet, however, this will not tackle the source of the problem. For this we need a deep structural change to our consumption habits and work to implement more biodegradable solutions again. This will require global cooperation going from industrialists to consumers and passing by political and legal authorities. Every one of us is concerned directly or indirectly by nature and ocean pollution, either as a food toxicity issue or as a simple financial or health issue so every one of us has or will have to act or contribute to conservation initiatives.

Last but not least, I will add a petition that pleads to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food, should you want to contribute in a couple of clicks:

http://signon.org/sign/ban-non-biodegradable.fb23?source=c.fb&r_by=1333790

 

Manta giving birth or intestinal eversion?

By Angelina Cecchetto on 9 February 2013

Photography: ©2013 Martin Ureta. All Rights Reserved.

Photography: ©2013 Martin Ureta. All Rights Reserved.

Following the great feedback I received from the last post “The first breathtaking photo of a giant oceanic Manta Ray giving birth??” it would seem that the picture could well show a case of what is called “gastro-intestinal eversion” where the manta actually ejects the lower part of its intestine out of the cloaca in order to clean its intestine from indigestible debris.

This is an event which has so far been rarely recorded in the wild. One other case has been recorded in 2007 at a cleaning station in waters off Maui[1].

Since I am no marine biologist I will leave it to the specialists to decide whether the picture shows a manta giving birth or everting its intestine. In any case this is a very rare and lucky shot!

What this information leads me to wonder is whether the regularity at which the mantas evert their intestine has been increased by the anthropogenic pollution factor? It would also be interesting to know what sort of impact this has on the mantas habits and behaviors if any.

It would also seem that the shot could be of a Manta alfredi rather than Manta birostris, this is still to be defined with other shots. The differentiation between Manta alfredi and Manta birostris is fairly recent and dates back from 2009[2]. In fact Manta alfredy, also known as Reef Manta Ray and Manta birostris are both part of what is called the “genus Manta” family and they can easily be confused. It would seem that manta birostris do not display markings between the gills.

What is pretty certain is that the situation of the mantas alfredy is also critical. The same over fishing threats apply to both species and the population is drastically decreasing. The IUCN[3] categorized the manta rays as “Vulnerable” in between the “Near Threatened” and “Endangered” species and states that “Overall, the rate of population reduction appears to be high in several regions, up to as much as 80% over the last three generations (approximately 75 years), and globally a decline of 30% is strongly suspected.”

As I mentioned in the previous article, there are various factors that led to this critical state of affairs: overfishing, very low fecundity rate and anthropogenic pollution.  It would seem that in the wild female mantas give birth to a single pup every 2 to 3 years cycle. When we add this factor to the overfishing trends we can easily understand that populations are being easily depleted.

Whether this picture shows a Manta birostris or a Manta alfredi and whether it is showing a birth or a gastro intestinal eversion (I leave it to the knowledgeable marine specialists and scientists to decide), the important message is that Mantas are in danger and they need a strong global protection. I am hoping that this picture will raise awareness, open up discussions, ideas exchange and humbly contribute towards global mantas protection.

Angelina Cecchetto

[1] “Intestinal eversion in a free-ranging manta ray” by Springer-Verlag 2007. http://www.himb.hawaii.edu/sharklab/Clark_et_al_manta%20intestine%20eversion.pdf

When all natural resources will be poisoned will Men survive eating money?

By Angelina Cecchetto on 2nd February 2013

Photography: ©2013 Angelina Cecchetto All Rights Reserved.

Photography: ©2013 Angelina Cecchetto. All Rights Reserved.

I have been lucky enough to turn one of my passions into a job and to become a dive instructor.  When I dive every day I see a fascinating underwater world that never ceases to amaze me and the divers that I take underwater. The underwater world is simply magical. Unfortunately every day I dive I also see the devastating mark of human consumption everywhere in the ocean.

Every day, I see plastic bottles both at the surface and in the sea. In the sea and in the heart of the reefs I see baby nappies, plastic bags, metal cans, plastic and glass bottles, fishing lines, constructions materials to name just a few. I pick up as many things as I can but this is nothing compare to the amount of trash we pour in the ocean every day.

We are all culprits of this “poisoning”. In the Indian Ocean, the safari boats simply dump their rubbish in the sea. The island resort hotels do the same. Instead of taking their refuse to a processing island they just wait for night to fall so no one sees them and dump the rubbish in the sea a few miles off the island. It’s cheaper. The profit that these island resort hotels make could very easily provide for a refusal budget but the greed for profit at all costs seems as infinite as the universe itself.

The governments worldwide seem to be turning a blind eye to the situation so I am inclined to think that the refuse processing is a big money scam in many countries not to say worldwide.

In Italy the rubbish are being buried in fertile agricultural grounds… In his book “Gomorra” the journalist and writer Roberto Saviano denounces all these refuse processing or rather non processing scams. Of course the fact there is no regulation or control about the rubbish processing results in constant daily poisoning of our soil and seas.

We are poisoning our own environment and killing many other innocent species in the process… In the sea the situation is dramatic. The land to water ratio on the planet is about 30 to 70% so the ocean covers about 2/3 of the planet. With this in mind you would think, the ocean is so big that you would hardly ever see traces of human consumption there. Well that’s precisely where the situation becomes alarming, the reefs are not only the victims of the overall global warming phenomenon which is more subtle to perceive but they are also ridden with human rubbish everywhere and this we cannot ignore.

We all know that the oceans are overfished, we all know about global warming, we all know about species disappearing due to human over consumption and damage so the question is what do we do about it? Individually we can do localized actions but separate we cannot change the big picture. So when are we going to get involved all together?

The main issue beyond the refuse processing is the whole consumer product industry. Packaging. Do we really need 3 layers of plastic around our products? Do we really need to have our strawberries in a plastic container and an extra cellophane layer around it?  Do we really need baby nappies made out of Polyethylene i.e. plastic?

It is time to rethink the whole consumer products packaging worldwide and fast! It is not only killing or endangering many innocent species worldwide; it is also endangering us humans. The bottom line of the issue is that “money rules” in this world as we all know.

My question to conclude is simple:  when all natural resources will be poisoned or extinct will Men survive eating money??

Angelina Cecchetto