Plastic peril: Bermuda’s pristine beaches and precious marine life are under threat from a mass of plastic trash and debris that accumulates in the Sargasso Sea from across the world, experts tell us. *Photo taken last month in Bermuda by Justin Lewis
Plastic peril: Bermuda’s pristine beaches and precious marine life are under threat from a mass of plastic trash and debris that accumulates in the Sargasso Sea from across the world, experts tell us. *Photo taken last month in Bermuda by Justin Lewis
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Bermuda’s pristine beaches and marine life are under attack from a floating mass of plastic trash that accumulates in the Sargasso Sea, according to conservationists.

Michelle Stauffer and Justin Lewis uncovered a worrying level of micro plastic debris along the shoreline when they visited the island recently.

The American pair travelled to Bermuda as part of a project called 70 Degrees West to look at the adverse effects that the North Atlantic Gyre is having on the surrounding environment.

Ms Stauffer told the Bermuda Sun: “Unfortunately, we found a tremendous amount of marine debris washed up on the Bermuda shores.

“There were plastics ranging from large items, such as bleach bottles and sandals, to lighters and glow sticks, to ‘confetti’ micro-plastics, along with many other everyday household items.

“The micro-plastics littered many of the shores we visited. It was apparent that much of the plastic had been out at sea for a long time because of the visible algae growing on the debris.”

She added: “Bermuda is located within the North Atlantic Gyre. A gyre acts as a slow moving whirlpool to effectively mix warm and cold water.

“It also slowly collects trash during its rotation. The presence of so much marine debris on Bermuda’s shores indicts the existence of the North Atlantic trash gyre. Bermuda is witnessing first hand the side effects of trash into our oceans.

“The amount of micro-plastics washed ashore also presents serious concerns for the marine life.

“When fish and birds consume the plastic particles, mistaking them for food, the side-effects can lead to starvation, dehydration, and sometimes death.”

Ms Stauffer and Mr Lewis launched the 70 Degrees West project around 18 months ago on the west coast of the US.

They quit their professional jobs and have been travelling the world ever since collecting data and information.

They plan to use their findings to raise awareness about the problem of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans.

Mr Lewis told the Sun: “70 Degrees West is a photo-documentary project that follows a single line of longitude to illustrate the impact of the modern world on eight unique eco-regions.

“We came to Bermuda because it was the best jumping off point to focus on plastic pollution and the uniqueness of the Sargasso Sea.

“The 70th meridian runs straight through the shifting Sargasso Sea and the North Atlantic trash gyre.

“We came to capture the issue of marine debris, and how this is affecting the Sargasso Sea’s diverse ecosystem.”

The pair arrived in Bermuda last month and spent just over two weeks combing the island’s beaches and coves for debris.

They said they were very impressed by the work done by local green groups including Keep Bermuda Beautiful, the Bermuda Marine Debris Taskforce and Greenrock and praised them for their ‘tireless clean-up events’.

Ms Stauffer and Mr Lewis, who are currently working in the Florida Keys, hope to return to Bermuda again later this year to continue their research.

Ms Stauffer added: “Marine debris in our oceans is a global problem. Currently, there is a trash gyre in every major ocean across the planet.

“Trash ends up in our oceans through a number of ways; poor disposal regulations for manufacturing plants near rivers and watersheds, uncovered trucks moving plastic goods, landfills, shipments lost or dumped overboard by cargo ships, and individual littering.

“When you can scoop up more plastic than actual biomass from the ocean, it’s clear there is a serious problem.

“Because most of the plastic exists as tiny, broken-up pieces, cleaning it up is extremely difficult.

“We must start with actions on land to prevent any more plastic ending up in our oceans.

“Reducing personal waste is the best way to combat the problem. Not purchasing products wrapped three times in plastic sends a message to the manufactures that plastic is a toxic and often times, unnecessary addition.

“Saying no to single-use plastics is another alternative, eating locally and carrying re-usable bags are more ways to cut down on the use of plastics in your every day life.” 

• To find out more about 70 Degrees West go to www.70degreeswest.com or go to the couple’s blog at www.70degreeswest-explore.com