Thinking of moving to the deep?

The title of this article may have some of you intrigued. If you were hoping to read of deep sea experiments that allowed us to survive and inhabit this cold, dark abyss, unfortunately I can offer you none. However, the deep ocean is not as devoid of human influence as you might think.

In recent years the plight of the worlds oceans has grabbed public attention. Namely for the shocking videos and photos of extensive debris that now litters even the farthest reaches of our planet. Research institutions have spent millions of dollars researching the deep and in many cases, rather than finding a scientific break through drifting through the murky depths, they found your favourite brand instead. The disturbing pattern of reports is alarming and it does make one question – will we ever solve this sickness we have thrust upon our planet?

Popular Drinks Can on Deep Ocean Floor In Arctic – Dave Walsh, Greenpeace

Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch

Particular public attention is given to the pacific ocean garbage patch. Located between the West coast of the USA and the East coast of Asia, the Pacific Ocean is polluted by large amounts of debris. The cyclical currents in the region create areas where the trash collects. Whilst in most cases this trash can’t be seen in a huge mountain as it would be at a landfill site, it is extremely concentrated in these areas. The US National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has used extensive resources to investigate the extent of the problem and it is a bleak picture. In Europe and the USA most of our waste is exported to Asian countries that then sort and recycle much of it, but with 2.12 billion tons of trash produced worldwide every year it is easy to see even how a small amount being dumped into the ocean can have far reaching consequences.

Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch Current Influence Model – NOAA

Infrastructure in developing countries plays a significant role in exporting waste to the ocean. Often landfill sites are poorly contained and weather events such as monsoons can cause a dramatic flood of waste. One such event took social media by storm when it surfaced in 2017. Showing a torrent of plastic surging through a river in Guatemala, the video sparked public outcry for a curb in the production of single-use plastics.

Many businesses have since chosen to remove single use plastic items from sale. Most prominently J.D.Wetherspoons, removing single use straws from their venues across the UK and Europe overnight. A step in the right direction but arguably too little and very much too late. Countless studies have evaluated the impact our global trash output is having on the marine environment, one such study by Cauwenberghe and Janssen (2014) found up to 0.36 particles of plastic per gram of tissue in Mussels and 0.47g particles per gram of tissue in Oysters that had been cultured for human consumption. As filter feeders these organisms are relatively low on the food chain, and so we are likely to see an increasing high plastic particle count in marine predators that consume thousands of these organisms every year. Most of which, then end up a prime target for the global fishing industry as the predatory fish we all love to eat, wrapped in newspaper on a friday night. Currently, we are unable to quantify the toxicity of plastic particles in human consumption and so the effects of all this plastic that we are inevitably consuming on a daily basis remains unknown.

Umbrella and other human waste in coastal waters – Getty Images

As trash circulates it ultimately ends up in the deep sea, just like everything else, unless it is washed up on shore. Here we are unable to easy collect our litter and so it remains, drifting, intruding, killing –  until one day, thousands of years from now, it is broken down to elements. The incredible quantity and variety of items discarded into the deep sea does make one question whether deep diving submersibles of the future will see an abyssal plain or a landfill site at 3,000m. Will the deep sea bare more resemblance to our cities and towns than it does an underwater metropolis? Ultimately we must conclude that we have created our own extreme environment that every organism on the planet has to perilously battle every day, in the fight to survive.

Toilet found at 240m in Thailand – Doug King





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