Posted by: Katie Transue
Algalita Marine Research Blog
Posted by: Katie Transue
I am now concluding the first third of the tour in Hong Kong, the site of the largest plastic pellet spill in recorded history. One consequence of the spill was to ruin the livelihood of the fish farmers in the harbor. Since the fish in the net cages at the farms were used to having their food given to them in pellet form, they thought it was Xmas when thousands of pellets wafted into their habitat. They gorged themselves and then floated belly up on the surface, unable to move the pellets through their digestive tract. Tracey Read, who discovered the spill when she found bags and bags of the pellets on her local beach, along with Gary, a volunteer with Sea Shephard, documented this and I have video of the fish in distress swimming belly up and a dissection by one of the fish farmers of the stomach contents showing many pre-production polypropylene pellets. Dr. Takada, at Tokyo U analyzed the pellets and found them to be free from toxic additives, so there was no real danger in eating the flesh of the sick fish, but word had gotten out that the fish were dying after having eaten the pellets and all the retail outlets refused shipments, so the farmers had to organize fish frys for their friends to use the meat.
Video: Plastic Disaster (Hong Kong pellet spill)
Yesterday, I helped kick off the International Coastal Cleanup in Hong Kong, with lots of media including Nat Geo and Fox International. I visited the beach where the pellets were first found on Lantau Island and was shocked by the quantities still there. The young people cleaning the beach had been using colanders to sift the pellets out of the sand, but decided to invent a rotating screen that you put sand in one end and turn and have pellets coming out the other. Kids would turn it for fun for half an hour , so volunteer beach cleanup technology is advancing rapidly.
There are quite a few international schools in Hong Kong and I have spoken to two of them, The Canadian International School and the Li Po Chun United World College started by the founder of Outward Bound.
We have had excellent turnouts at all venues, and I believe I have reached close to one thousand individuals here in Hong Kong with information about the Plastic Plague affection our world ocean.
In Tokyo, I also spoke to a middle school and had a press conference, where I gave a Power Point Presentation in advance of the screening of Trashed with Japanese subtitles rendered with the help of Shin Takahasi. I also was hosted at two Patagonia outlets and had good book sales for Plastic Ocean in Japanese. The publisher, NHK, was very supportive and attended these events.
Today I am looking forward to getting out on the water sailing to a remote island off Hong Kong which is reported to have a dump like the one in Lebanon shown in Trashed which is bulldozing rubbish into the sea.
Tomorrow on to Hobart and Sydney,
Best to all,
Captain Charles Moore