Ghost equipment is estimated to represent 10% of plastic pollution in the ocean, but it constitutes most of the large plastic that dirties the waters. A study found that up to 70% (by weight) of macroplastics (larger than 20 cm) found floating on the ocean surface were related to fishing. Once plastic enters our waterways, the problems for fishing only intensify. Plastic can take hundreds of years to degrade and, unlike other types of waste, plastics break down very slowly (NOAA).
As plastic is converted into ever smaller pieces, it becomes microplastics. As the name suggests, these pieces are practically undetectable in size, especially in the midst of the vast backdrop of the ocean current. In addition to trapping animals, plastic lines get entangled around reefs and harm corals and other creatures that live on the ocean floor. Even a small amount of stray fishing line can become entangled in a coral head and kill coral polyps.
Pollution can even reach the ocean from miles away when it falls into storm drains that all lead to the ocean. In addition to the higher volume of plastic that comes from land-based sources, ocean pollution includes abandoned fishing gear that comes mainly from commercial industrial fishing fleets at sea. While all types of lost fishing gear can pose a threat to ocean ecosystems, plastic components, which now represent a significant fraction of many types of fishing gear, are of considerable concern. We believe that education on the topic of plastic pollution in the oceans and, more importantly, its relationship with fishermen and the community that lives outdoors, is vital for change.
How quickly and how far these solutions can be implemented will determine if people can stop the wave of plastic pollution and the environmental degradation of the ocean. In a somewhat confusing move, Starbucks said it would replace its plastic straws with plastic lids that evoke images of a child's sippy cup. An estimated 4.6 million fishing boats sail ocean waters and place fishing gear in all ocean basins. Every year, more than 100 million pounds of plastic from industrial fishing gear pollute the oceans and endanger marine life.
Single-use plastic is the type of plastic items that everyone uses just once before the item becomes unusable and then discarded. Therefore, just because someone is far from the ocean doesn't mean that they aren't affecting the ocean and waterways with pollutants. Garbage that is thrown on the streets, lightweight plastics in landfills, or waste that is illegally dumped can be carried into the ocean by wind or rain (BBC). Plastic pollution affects every corner of the ocean and, despite growing awareness, the problem is only getting worse.