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With equipment and guidance from 5 Gyres, Sea Shepherd collected samples of microplastics during OSG. Photo: Renaud ChassaigneWith equipment and guidance from 5 Gyres, Sea Shepherd collected samples of microplastics during OSG. Photo: Renaud ChassaigneSea Shepherd has long been a champion of non-violent direct action in defense of the world's oceans. As the threats facing our marine ecosystems grow and become more complex, it is vital we expand the number of tools in our arsenal, form new alliances, and adopt new, innovative multi-pronged approaches to stem the tide of oceanic destruction.

For this reason we are extremely proud to partner with 5 Gyres in combating what has been described as “the deadliest predator of the sea*” – marine plastic. Each year millions of tonnes of plastic litter enter our oceans and waterways injuring and killing more than a million birds and 100 million marine animals (including fish, turtles, whales) through entanglement, suffocation and ingestion.

In our modern age, a plastic bag can prove just as deadly as a harpoon, lost and abandoned fishing gear may kill more fish than they did when they were in the hands of the fishermen and a plastic bottle that once contained life-giving water can, in reality, take away more water-dependent life than it ever aided.

The greatest killer of all the plastics comes in the form of minute remnants, broken down from everyday products. Mostly unseen, they are known as microplastics. The harmful effects of these toxic particles intensify as they are passed up the food chain and are quickly becoming, not only a threat to marine animals everywhere, but also a serious health risk to seafood consumers the world over.

Each year millions of tonnes of plastic litter enter our oceans and waterways injuring and killing more than a million birds and 100 million marine animals. Photo: Renaud Chassaigne Each year millions of tonnes of plastic litter enter our oceans and waterways injuring and killing more than a million birds and 100 million marine animals. Photo: Renaud Chassaigne Found of 5 Gyres, Marcus Eriksen, said, “The collaboration between Sea Shepherd and the 5 Gyres Institute is an effort to tackle the looming catastrophe of synthetic polymers ‘plastic’ in all aquatic environments. The 5 Gyres Institute produced the first global estimate of 269,000 tons of plastic pollution worldwide, from 5.2 5 trillion articles. 92% of this is microplastic. The global situation is more akin to a plastic smog, the impacts are ecosystem-wide, and the microplastic particles become highly toxic over time. By working together, Sea Shepherd and the 5 Gyres Institute are able to monitor their problem and use the best science to drive home lasting solutions.”

With equipment and guidance from 5 Gyres, the Sea Shepherd ship Bob Barkercollected samples of these microplastics from the water during Sea Shepherd's recent Pilot Whale Defense Campaign, Operation Sleppid Grindini. Officers on bridge watch also engaged in surface plastic observations during the campaign. The combined data from these initiatives will provide the scientific community with valuable information on the distribution of various marine plastics, and may then be used by 5 Gyres and other groups to advocate more ecologically-friendly materials, better designed products, fair legislation, and engage in consumer education regarding marine plastics.

How can you help in the battle against the microplastics?

  • Make smart consumer choices and consume less where possible.
    Opt for reusable shopping bags and drink bottles.
  • Choose cleansing products that don't contain microbeads and avoid single-use plastic items (straws, cutlery, food and beverage containers, balloons etc.).
    Support container deposit schemes and other recycling initiatives.
    Pick up litter when you see it (aim for three pieces a day) and encourage others to dispose of theirs responsibly.
    Join a Sea Shepherd, 5 Gyres or other community beach clean up.
  • If there aren't any happening in your area, organise one.

Visit the 5Gyres website for more information and ways to help out: http://5gyres.org/

* Quote by Martin Sheen

Bob Barker crewmembers Bianca Figueiredo and Michael Beasley on the hunt for micro-plastics. Photo: Renaud ChassaigneBob Barker crewmembers Bianca Figueiredo and Michael Beasley on the hunt for micro-plastics. Photo: Renaud Chassaigne
The greatest killer of all the plastics comes in the form of minute remnants, broken down from everyday products – called microplastics. Photo: Renaud ChassaigneThe greatest killer of all the plastics comes in the form of minute remnants, broken down from everyday products – called microplastics. Photo: Renaud Chassaigne
 
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