We blog as a way to inspire conservation of the oceans. At the same time, we're not Pollyannas, painting a rosy picture regardless of what's going on.
A new study published by the U.S. Geological Survey found mercury in every single fish tested over a seven-year period, in every one of the nearly 300 streams sampled by USGS scientists throughout the United States. No exceptions.
The Environmental Protection Agency considers mercury a neurotoxin; the new study found that one-quarter of the fish sampled had mercury levels in their tissues above the threshold considered safe by the EPA. Main sources of the mercury include mining operations and coal-burning power plants.
On to plastics. In a report presented at the American Chemical Society this week, researchers led by a team from Japan's Nihon University announced that plastics -- previously thought to last nearly forever in the environment -- in fact will decompose fairly rapidly. When they do, they release potentially toxic substances into the water.
There are billions of pieces of plastic in existence, washing down streams and into the ocean -- an estimated 150,000 tons a year. Much has accumulated in what's now called the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a plastic-filled region in the north-central Pacific that may cover an area twice the size of the state of Texas.
The toxics, including bisphenol A and PS oligomer, are known to disrupt hormone function in animals, and seriously affect reproductive systems.
We've got a lot of work to do.
Photo credits: Power plant smokestacks, © John Zieran; trash in Los Angeles River, © Algalita Marine Research Foundation.