Prof. Van Cappellen discusses global marine litter on the Weather Network

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Click this image to watch the interview with Prof. Van Cappellen.The search for missing airliner MH370 reveals our oceans are sadly full of floating trash, even in the most remote places like the Southern Indian Ocean.

Prof. Philippe Van Cappellen, Canada Excellence Research Chair in Ecohydrology, spoke with the Weather Network about the growing awareness of marine debris accumulating in our oceans.

The most notable accumulation of debris, the Great Pacific garbage patch, has developed through the confluence of ocean currents rotating in the same clockwise direction within the North Pacific Gyre.

Sources of marine debris include improper solid waste disposal, storm drain overflows, industrial discharges, treated and untreated municipal sewage, and storm events which mobilize debris from land, as well as derelict fishing nets and dumping at sea.

Fridge floating in the Pacific Ocean.The debris has serious ecological, human health and economic consequences, including entanglement of marine wildlife, accumulation of persistent organic pollutants in the fish and seafood we consume, and soiled beaches which impacts tourism and lowers property values.

Van Cappellen cites the main solution to the marine litter problem is prevention. Better solid waste disposal infrastructure, public awareness of the issue and better enforcement of existing laws and conventions would go a long way to reduce man-made trash in our oceans.

“This is a global issue,” said Van Cappellen, “but it is well within our control.”

Van Cappellen leads a research project on plastics debris within the Great Lakes at the University of Waterloo. His interview can be viewed on the Weather Network homepage: “How much garbage is actually in our oceans?” by Natalie Thomas.