I cannot tell how many times I have had to work on projects to undo the environmental and health disasters that resulted from “solutions” to another problem.
The major outbreak of St. Louis Encephalitis in the Midwest back in the 1970s was precipitated by well-intentioned efforts to alleviate fish kills from food-processing plants—an interesting cascade of events brought on by the synergistic effect of narrowly focused bureaucrats, environmental engineers, politicians, and overzealous, uninformed environmental activists.
Thanks for making folks aware of this concern for the neuston!
I truly enjoyed your article on how the Ocean Cleanup project threatens aquatic creatures we know little about.
Isn’t it ironic, though, that nature has recovered and adapted to the bad, and now that we want to do good to fix our bad, fixing the bad will be just as bad?
Maybe we should build an artificial floating raft that these neuston can use to thrive on, then slowly start to clean up so we don’t destroy two ecosystems for the price of one.
St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada
I think one of the most exciting things is that Rebecca investigated and shared what the neuston is. So few people have ever heard of it, the sheer beauty of its inhabitants and the incredible importance to the health of the ocean ecology and by extension, the planet. Even many of those who study ocean ecology misunderstand or simply skip over it.
We at Oceanamatica came to the exact same conclusion Rebecca did—the plastic is in the same routes and patterns, so we need to study it first to understand better what is happening before deploying systems in it to recover plastics. (Our primary deployment zones are bays, harbors, deltas, injection points.)
A few years ago we started pulling together a good bit of data, and applied for grants to fund studies of the neuston and its systems. Further, the neuston’s importance changed our design—we have cameras, sensors, and scanners that tell the remote operator what the density of sea life is in the area. The system itself is also designed to allow this sea life to escape through apertures in the equipment, as long as it is under 10 millimeters. In this way, we are trying to balance removing as much plastic as possible larger than 10 millimeters with protecting the neuston. If we can at least keep the larger pieces from breaking down into microplastics, we can stop the destructive cycle of the billions of pounds of plastic already in the ecosystem.
Capt. Jeff Hohonukai
Yes, countries like the Philippines dump plastic in rivers, but the plastic of which you speak comes from ocean dumping. You speak of the source, but not the cause.
Cruise ships, ocean liners, military ships, and freighters can all dump waste into the ocean, and they do.