Monterey Bay: Garbage Dump

Otterrake

The Monterey Bay Sanctuary: Not exactly pristine

One of the great things about living next to the ocean is that it makes it easy to get rid of sewage, trash and pretty much anything else you don’t want. And while the East Coast tradition of simply hauling municipal garbage out to sea on a barge and pushing it overboard never caught on here (something to do with the prevailing onshore wind, no doubt), Moss Landing’s Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (better known as MBARI) now tells us that Monterey Bay is nevertheless awash with trash.

In spite of its “Sanctuary” status, Monterey Bay is, in fact, the trashiest part of the ocean MBARI has yet found. And, those still wondering whether banning single use plastic bags is a good idea should note that they account for better than a sixth of all that trash.

Just how much damage all this garbage is doing to delicate marine ecosystems isn’t clear, but plastic (from rakes to bags) is of particular concern to MBARI. They worry that as plastic breaks down into small bits, it will be mistaken for food and consumed, with potentially dire consequences, by the myriad denizens of the deep.

Those at the top of the marine food chain, like this muckraking otter and ourselves, ought to be a bit concerned about that.

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