The tragic disappearance of Air France's Flight 447 has highlighted another, ongoing tragedy: the terrible pollution in the world's oceans. It's awful that it took a disaster of this magnitude to bring this important issue to the world stage, but if something good can come out of such a terrible loss, I'm hoping this is it.
Here is an excerpt:
"The search for signs of the Air France flight highlights what environmentalists say is a pressing issue for the world today: We produce a lot of trash that biodegrades slowly, and too much of it ends up in the ocean. Out at sea, plastics suffocate sea turtles and choke birds, which look at the bits of floating gunk as food.
Endangered sea turtles become entangled in discarded fishing line and also ingest plastic bags, like those from grocery stores, said Bamford.
"They love to eat jellyfish, and when they see a plastic bag it looks exactly like a jellyfish, basically," she said.
Still, scientists say they know relatively little about the scope of the problem and the effects that trash has on ocean life.
Finding answers to those unknowns is among the current initiatives of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Holly Bamford, director of the U.S. agency's marine debris program.
Enough is known about ocean trash to know that it's time to act, she said.
"It's a global problem. You can go do a collection almost anywhere and you'll probably come up with a piece of debris in your sample. The question is what all is out there and what is it doing," she said. "It's something that needs to be addressed."