by Andrea Persaud
Imagine a patch of garbage larger than the size of Texas floating in the the Pacific Ocean! Or a water bottle you can chew up right after a refreshing drink. All of these topics and more were covered during 10 by 2020’s November Global Ocean Forum. Dr. Mark Bond, a scientist, currently working at Florida International University, also joined the Webinar to tell us about his work with sharks and why they play such an important role in marine ecosystems around the world.
To jumpstart the forum, a question was raised about whether or not SeaWorld San Diego’s decision to change its orca habitats to mimic a more natural environment and end performances, is a step in the right direction. Some believe this change may have resulted from activists’ backlash, especially after the 2013 documentary "Blackfish", which sheds a light on the negative effects orca’s face living within the park’s captivity. Although, the company’s President and CEO attributes the change to feedback received from its guests.
The pacific Garbage Patch, discovered in 1997, is a mass of floating plastic particles brought together by ocean currents. Contrary to popular belief, it is not an island of large plastic debris. In fact, the opposite largely holds true. Micro plastics make up most of the garbage, and can remain suspended throughout the depths of the ocean, thus debilitating scientists from gaging how large the garbage patch truly is. Along with that, it is predicted that the amount of plastic in the ocean will outnumber fish by 2050. In fact, it has already altered the makeup of sediment of in bodies of water, and negatively impacted various forms of marine life, ranging from birds to fish who ingest the plastics.
Following this discussion, Dr. Mark Bond joined the forum to discuss his work with sharks, and just how inaccurate the general public's idea is about their behavior. The importance of marine protected areas was also highlighted, noting that some scientists still do not accept the benefits of it. The main problem arises when sharks and other marine animals’ habitats exist in areas that stretch outside the boundaries of the protected area, thus allowing them to be in danger. Despite the dispute regarding the effectiveness of the protected areas, Dr. Bond also stresses the importance of sharks as a predator in the food chain, in terms of maintaining a balance. Shark fin soup has also gained immense popularity over the years, and can be attributed to decline in population. In order to learn more about various types of sharks Dr. Bond is carrying out research utilizing an underwater camera technique. Hopefully, this tool can bring about awareness, and an understanding of how greatly marine reserves impact sharks.
On a celebratory note: Amongst the numerous issues discussed in November’s Ocean 10 by 2020 forum, research has recently shown that 4% of the ocean is within marine protected areas. Although, there is still much progress to be made, with education, and public outreach 4% can transform into 10% by 2020!