By Sandy K. Johnson
The worst offenders of plastic pollution of the seas are in Asia, led by China, Indonesia, Philippines and Vietnam. The United States is not blameless, being the 20th worst offender in plastic pollution.
Food wrappers, bottles, bottle caps, grocery bags, straws – essentially the detritus of the processed food we consume – litter the shorelines and the sea surface and then gradually settles to the ocean floor. Some 1,200 species of animals are affected by marine plastics, according to Janis Searles Jones, CEO of the Ocean Conservancy.
Why does it matter? “The ocean is really the governor of our planet,” Searles Jones said. It has absorbed 90 percent of the planet’s heat and 30 percent of its carbon dioxide emissions, “and it does that somewhat at its peril.”
Another threat to the oceans: The Trump administration has proposed to dramatically accelerate oil and gas drilling. Its draft proposal “puts the entire continental shelf back on the auction block, with the exception of Bristol Bay” in Alaska, Searles Jones said. Every coastal governor except those in the Gulf Coast and Alaska opposes the Trump plan.
The Gulf of Mexico has been the U.S. offshore oil patch. In early days, drilling occurred in 1,000 feet of water; now companies drill down to 10,000 feet with some wells sunk at 30,000 feet. Everyone remembers the BP Deepwater Horizon spill in 2010 that dumped 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. Less remembered: the 1969 spill that soiled 30 square miles of ocean off the coast of Santa Barbara, California, or the 1989 Exxon Valdez spill in Alaska’s Prince William Sound.
All are reminders of the perils of offshore drilling, Searles Jones said.