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5450 views 2 people's favourite photo

What is inside... A Baby Albatross

I was browsing through my Midway Atoll photos and rediscovered this somewhat disturbing photo. In sharp contrast to photos like these http://www.fotothing.com/Pueo/photo/bb70e4fa54017126f7ad3da41ef9baf4/start=92
... come May-June many of the Albatross fledglings are trying out their wings and attempting to leave the atoll. Many of them make it. Many of them don't. There are various reasons why an albatross fledgling may fail. One of them may simply be plastic. Albatross parents feed their young various seafood that they fly miles out into the ocean to gather. Researchers have found this food includes squid, fish eggs, and probably other sea life not yet identified. What is known, however, is that in the process of gathering food for their chicks, the albatross parents also inadvertently get plastic as well. The plastic is fed to the chicks and if the chicks are getting less seafood than plastic they essentially starve with a full belly of plastic. Some chicks survive even up until getting ready to fly but if they are unable to regurgitate the plastic that has gathered in their stomachs they may fail to ever fly and starve to death that way too.

As you can see from this albatross carcass, (see at original size) the garbage picked up can include almost anything that is plastic: pens, toothrbushes, bottle caps, lighters, fishing floats, oyster spacers, and even small toys. I actually found a plastic top, dice, and a plastic army man.

What is causing this? The plastics found in seabirds are a symptom of a much larger problem. Plastic garbage, tons and tons of it, cover a large area of the North Pacific Ocean. This area, estimated by some as twice the size of Texas, goes by many names including the North Pacific Gyre, Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and Trash Vortex. Much of the floating plastic garbage from around the Pacific ends up there because of prevailing ocean currents.
View an interactive animation of the Garbage Patch:
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/news/trashing-our-oceans/ocean_pollution_animation
The sun may break the plastic down into smaller and smaller pieces but even if the pieces are small they cannot be broken down and used as nutrients for anything living.

The plastic garbage patch continues to grow and poses serious threats to the world's oceans including turtles, seabirds, fish, jellyfish and other sea life. Ocean debris is an ongoing problem that needs to be addressed.
It appears the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) may actually be looking into getting at least some of the debris cleaned up:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2007/10/30/MNT5T1NER.DTL

What can we do?
1) Encourage our government officials to address possibly cleaning up some of the garbage. The long term consequences to sea life and ocean commerce could be threatened by this ever growing problem.

2) Buy biodegradable: Many new plastic containers including plastic cups, deli take-home containers, plastic cutlery, plastic bags, and plates are being made out of corn, potato starch, sugarcane fiber other biocompostible materials. Ask the businesses you frequent to use them instead of petroleum based plastic. World Centric is one company that sells them: http://www.worldcentric.org/bio/index.htm

3) Recycle: By recycling plastic you can prevent it from getting into the waste stream and the ocean. You'll be reducing energy use and carbon emissions too.

4) Don't litter: Obviously we shouldn't throw garbage directly into the ocean. What may not be obvious is that garbage dropped on the street could end up in storm drains and end up in the ocean. People could also throw garbage into inland lakes and streams and those could also eventually end up in to ocean. So don't litter. Your bottle cap could end up in a bird thousands of miles and many years later.

You can find out more at the following links:
http://www.greenpeace.org/international/campaigns/oceans/pollution/trash-vortex
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/North_Pacific_Gyre
http://www.mindfully.org/Plastic/Ocean/Pacific-Garbage-Patch27oct02.htm

This is a slightly different take on my current theme "What is inside". I will be be uploading various "take apart" photos every so often. I'll be tagging them "whatisinside" so you can find them at: http://www.fotothing.com/tag/whatisinside

BTW- if you have any interesting "inside" views tag your photos "whatisinside" too. I'd love to see them.
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Comments on this photo:

Nov 17 2007 03:33 GMT ashdad PRO
Sad. That is a lot of plastic junk in there.
Nov 17 2007 03:37 GMT iyerhari
a valuable article for awareness ...
Nov 17 2007 03:42 GMT Pueo PRO
Yes Ashdad and around May and June you can many of them dead on the island. Killed by plastic their parents fed them. It's not the best time of year. My friends that live there say the flies are terrible.
Nov 17 2007 03:43 GMT Pueo PRO
Thanks iyerhari
Nov 17 2007 03:43 GMT wifey
Fantastic! Only one?
Nov 17 2007 03:44 GMT wifey
Oh… I see it now… had to go to original size… kinda sad… but important.
Nov 17 2007 03:48 GMT Pueo PRO
Yes Wifey, each Albatross pair only raises one chick each year.
Nov 17 2007 04:19 GMT Haw59 PRO
Well said.
Nov 17 2007 10:28 GMT Sheila PRO
That's absolutely incredible, Pueo. I had no idea this happens. Thanks for the education!
Nov 17 2007 10:35 GMT Steve PRO
That's all new to me as well. What a mess we're making of this planet . . . *sigh*
Nov 17 2007 10:40 GMT Sheila PRO
Nov 17 2007 18:32 GMT Lensvision
That's so sad....
Nov 18 2007 21:38 GMT bennystr
Sad, fascinating work!
Nov 18 2007 21:54 GMT jimm
Good job putting this together with the foto to illustrate your point, and meaningful links. Hats off to you,Pueo !
Nov 18 2007 22:59 GMT Pueo PRO
You're welcome Sheila, I'm glad to have given you some thought provoking info. Thanks also for adding to the "whatisinside" collection.
Nov 18 2007 23:06 GMT Pueo PRO
I'm glad I could help bring this issue to your attention. It is a subject that doesn't make the news much. I think the issue has been ignored largely because the Great Pacific Garbage Patch is far from where most humans live or travel.
Nov 20 2007 21:33 GMT Wildspirit PRO
Touching, tragic. Great narrative and eye-opener! Our world is being destroyed by the very ones (we humans) capable of (and entrusted to) preserving it!!
Nov 20 2007 21:50 GMT Pueo PRO
Yes, Mother Nature cleans up after us a lot... but some messes we need to take care of ourselves.
Nov 24 2007 00:53 GMT Tavascarow
Many of our rare species are suffering the same fate & what a terrible fate it is.
To starve to death because your gut is blocked with plastic trash from our consumerist society.
Thank you for sharing this & for the info.
:))
Nov 24 2007 10:38 GMT Pueo PRO
You're welcome. This was something that needed to be shared. People need to know that even the vast oceans cannot serve as our dumping ground. There is really no such place as "away" to throw our things. Our carelessly discarded plastics all up somewhere on this planet. Sometimes showing up in the places one would least expect... like in the belly of a helpless baby bird on an island thousands of miles from any significant human population. Not to point fingers, but it took me by surprise how many of those lighters had Japanese, Chinese, and Korean writing on them.
Nov 26 2007 02:38 GMT Poulet PRO
Sad but touching and interesting!
Thanks for always sharing valueable info. for us all, Pueo!
Feb 21 2008 07:17 GMT Snappa
I watched a programme about this a while ago, and its very sad that people on the whole, are quite thoughtless about whats happeniing in the world,even though its in each and every one our hands to stop it. Always try though

Good thought provoking image.
Feb 21 2008 10:02 GMT Pueo PRO
glad I could share it with you

FT2