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May 04, 2009     Post 15
update on a ship with a mission

Thirty five years ago I sampled the waters of the Merrimac River on the north shore of Massachusetts with a plankton net. I was amazed and appalled at the amount of particulate plastic I found in my net. I wondered if just hatched larval fish ever ate this inedible stuff, which looked mostly like styrofoam product broken down into miniature pellets, and then suffered as a result. I never sought an answer to the question. But it sounds like some other people have.

As long time Log On Line readers know, a few years back we were wandering the San Diego waterfront and found an absolutely magnificent steel brigantine lying idle along one of the docks there. We learned that she was a 'world citizen' ship operating for the good of the seas and was at that moment looking for some money and help. Well, her hard working owner apparently found it. Google the link here to learn how her work may advance research on plankton and plastic and ways to reduce the impacts of all that crap on pelagic sea life. project Kaisei

The Kaisei is sailing to the north Pacific where a collection of plastic twice the size of Texas has collected. Here she will assist in research on how to reduce the problem and collect the trash. (At least the larger stuff.) New York state recently passed a law that includes all those pesky plastic water bottles in its bottle deposit program. Now we need to get other juice and drink bottles under that program. And as the project Kaisei organizers point out, an overhaul of our entire plastic manufacturing system and usage is in order. I for one am going to try really really hard to remember my fabric bag when I go to the grocery store.

In 1979 I sailed off New York City on a German research ship. We were near the area where at that time the city's garbage barges dropped their trash into the ocean. We saw around our ship uncountable plastic bags floating just under the surface looking like a vast school of jellyfish. It's only gotten worse since then. Though one person can't do much, that old cliché about a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step is still as true as ever. Cheers to the good little ship Kaisei and her crew!

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