The Riddle Of The Roaming Plastic – Why Is 99 Percent Of The Plastic That Enters Our Ocean Missing?

Source: Hakai Magazine/Matthew Halliday 

Photo: Guillaume Briard/Unsplash

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Codfish eat everything. “Everyone here has a story about the Barbie doll they found in a cod,” quips Max Liboiron, referring to St. John’s, Newfoundland and Labrador, her home. So the geography professor at Memorial University in St. John’s thought she knew what to expect in 2015 when she conducted the first study on plastic ingestion among cod in Newfoundland’s inshore waters. The results surprised her; in contradiction of the local lore, the data showed one of the lowest rates of plastic ingestion by fish in the world.

Liboiron did have a hunch as to why: the plastics that might have tempted the undiscerning cod were getting whisked away by the ocean, ending up on foreign shores instead of in the local fish’s stomachs.

Liboiron had recently wrapped up a PhD project at New York University that explored plastic pollution in the wild. Its permanence, extraordinary mobility, and the way it connects the globe, making one nation’s trash another’s burden, is a “wicked problem,” she says. She had also recently heard about a beachcomber named Martin Gray, who was plucking plastic fishery tags, ropes, and buoys from Canada off the beach an ocean away, near his house on Scotland’s Orkney Islands.

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Photo: Guillaume Briard/Unsplash

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