Sirens of the Sea

by Katrin Scholz-Barth, President, SustainableQATAR

In October 2019, I had the opportunity to be part of eXXpedition’s inaugural Leg 1 of the Round-The-World ocean plastics research voyage. An all-female crew of 300 women was to sail a total of 38,000 nautical miles across our oceans and through the 5 plastics accumulations zones (gyres) on a mission to research the impacts of plastics and toxins on our personal and planetary health and then compare the findings with the first global study conducted more then 10 years ago.

The double X symbolizes the female chromosome. As wave actions and the sun break down plastics in the oceans they are mistaken for food by fish and crustaceans and so enter our food chain. Toxins of the plastic polymers are released in the process and also enter our bodies, causing cancer and disrupting the proper functioning of our hormones. Known as endocrine disruptors, these toxins are particularly damaging to girls and women during puberty, pregnancy, and menopause.

The sirens were sounding as we sailed from Plymouth, UK to the Azores, Portugal. Setting out on the heels of Hurricane Lorenzo in unforgiving weather conditions didn’t help in navigating the English Channel, an already notoriously challenging part of the sea for seasoned sailors. It was relentless. We encountered storm after storm. 

The sirens sounded even louder with the realization of the vast amounts of micro plastics present in our oceans as far out as 700 miles off-shore.

When the sea was calm enough to focus on our mission, we released the manta trawl to collect and analyze surface water samples and conduct citizen science. What we found was alarming: there are many more pieces of micro plastics present everywhere. Every sample pulled included bits and pieces of foam, line, fragments, and plastic pallet or nurdles.

Ocean research institute SCRIPPS in California also looked at crustaceans and estimated that there are 8.3 Million pieces of mini micro plastics per cubic meter of water. Yes, you read that correctly: 8.3 MILLION pieces of mini micro plastics per each cubic meter of ocean water. Previous estimates suggested 10 pieces per cubic meter. 

OutsideTV just released the episode about the eXXpedition Round-The-World Leg 1 ocean plastics research sailing voyage entitled Sirens of the Sea. To watch the 22:30 min episode please press here.

The good news is that not everyone has to endure these rough conditions at sea. Much easier, everyone can participate in eliminating plastics from daily lives!

What can EVERYONE DO? 

Our work starts on land, urging for research-based solutions at the source. We all have options about things we buy and consume. We have real power over our daily choices and purchases.

SustainableQATAR’s 52 Weekly Climate Actions and the monthly theme for May – Close the Loop – present many options to re-think materials in our daily lives and ways to make better informed decisions, including saying no to plastic packaging, feeding others not the landfill and thinking beyond recycling.

Here are a few suggestions for how everyone can contribute to eliminating ocean plastics, climate actions, and being part of the solution:

  • Reject plastic packaging.
  • Replace plastics, especially single-use plastics with reusable materials, bags, bottles, etc.
  • Design out plastics from manufacturing and supply chains wherever possible.
  • Use shower gels free of toxins and plastics micro beats.
  • Wash less because micro plastics from nylon and polyester clothes end up in our oceans.
  • Innovate new plant-based materials including bio-plastics made from algae, cassava and sugar beets.

BUT our actions can’t stop there.

It is within our personal power to keep raising climate awareness and being mindful of water use, energy use, generating less waste by starting to compost organic waste and keeping soils covered to draw down carbon emissions from the atmosphere. When we engage with each other we can learn more about living more consciously and healthy and make a positive difference in working toward meeting Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) 9: Industry Innovation and Infrastructure; SDG 13: Climate Action; SDG 14: Life Below Water; and SDG 15: Life on Land by 2030.

Keep up your POWER of ONE to collectively build a Qatar to the POWER of SUSTAINABILITY. 

We need all hands on deck!