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A freediver holds plastic soup in her hand, by Joost van Uffelen

Our plastic mess

We all know it by now.

We all have heard about the plastic soup, but for some it is quite an abstract phenomenon.

For us it is very confronting to be faced with the (mostly plastic) mess that we humans have entered the ocean each time we go out to sea.

Everyday we pick up plastic while we are out there.

It is not only on the surface that we encounter it, like this tern using a discarded flipflop as a resting platform.

Down below a lot of the mess is visible too. Check out this big net that floated in between Pico and Sao Jorge island in the archipelago of the Azores.

The crazy thing is that for some pelagic sealife these patches of marine debris create safe havens.

For them the debris patches become places to hide or rest. This means that for me a big fishing net also is a point of interest photographically; something to go and check out.

Often we find large marine predators like these dolphin fish patrolling the nets for a chance to pick off a nice snack.

You never know what marine life is close to such a net. 

Once we were lucky when a blue shark swam up to visit us after we had entered the water.

Usually these sharks are hard to get close to without some sort of bait or attracting scent in the water.

The contradiction is killing me at times though, because we should not be seeing this mess in the ocean.

It is not only the big pieces of debris that we see.. We see more and more small particles floating about.

Pieces of fishing net, small pieces of plastic that have broken into smaller pieces over time due to sunlight and wind and wave action.

Check out this hand full of plastic we recovered in just a short 100m swim in the center of the Atlantic Ocean..

And this is only the stuff we find on the surface of the ocean. We must accept that a lot of the mess has disappeared into the depths already.

Some marine animals are affected very badly by the leftovers of our consumption society.

The spermwhale, the main aim of our visit to the Azores, is one of them.

Check out this article of the sperm whale that washed ashore in Scotland recently. The sperm whale had 100kg of mostly fisheries trash in its belly!

Sadly it is not a unique occurence as seen by this article of a mother and baby sperm whale that died in a net or this article of a baby sperm whale that died with a stomach full of plastic..

It is not only disgusting, it is so embarrasing too since this is what we humans are doing to our seas.

Time to change that don't you think!?

Although a lot of the lines and nets obviously come from the offshore fishery industry, there is still a lot that you can do yourself to prevent the ocean has to deal with your mess.

My suggestion is to re-use the plastic you already have and replace plastic for non-plastic alternatives.

There is quite a bit of information on the web available to get some inspiration from by now.

For example check out this page of Ocean.org or the WWF page with some good suggestions, or even follow this Plastic Diet (some useful tips in this one!).

No, it is not hippie dippy shit, it's about being responsible for your actions as a consumer and limiting the impact these actions have.

joostvanuffelen's picture
About the Author:
Joost loves the oceans, travelling and (underwater)photography. Combining those three elements he creates ocean art, travel reports and ocean photo stories...

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