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The microphones found in the Sargasso Sea

Caught in the swollen gyre is a growing collection of human waste: trash from countries across the Atlantic, from the west coast of Africa to the east coast of the US, slowly falling into its long journey to microplastics ending up in the gills and stomachs of aquatic animals.

We join a Greenpeace expedition in Sargasso where scientists study plastic pollution and turtle habitat. Our mission is to get a better understanding of what lives in the sargassum ecosystem, what is threatening it, and how it can affect us.

In blue

My cameraman, Brice Laine, and I thought we had an understanding of how human hope affected the Earth. We report from the most remote regions of our planet, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, where we witness the discovery of microplastics, fiber and PFAS (chemicals used as stains and water repellents in things like the kitchen and spontaneous exterior). [19659005] Read more: Protecting Antarctica: A journey through a continent of distress

The Sargasso Sea is another place where some people venture. Constantly changing in waves, this oval-shaped body of water is around 1,000 miles wide and 3,000 miles long. From the bow of our ship, the Esperanza of Greenpeace, the water looks clean, inviting. Having never been to waters like this – the open ocean, often believed to be a biodiversity desert – we are excited to enter.

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There is a small school of juvenile triggers and file files, and other species walking around or hiding only in inside the sargassum. There are many species that we cannot see, very small, very entertaining on rich nursery ground such as young shrimp and crabs, small frog fish, and what we really hope to find but no – baby turtles.

Embedded in most sargassum are easily visible pieces of trash: shampoo bottles, fishing, thick hard containers or thin soft bags among many other types of plastic. One of the scientists identified the fish bite marks on a small plastic sheet we pulled. But what is really puzzling is when you dive in and look at the blue and realize that you are surrounded by tiny glittering pieces of plastic called microplastic.

Not until it witnessed the extent of plastic pollution and what it meant to sink. And scary.

Greenpeace scientists say they found "extreme" concentrations of microplastic pollution in the Sargasso Sea, though they are still reviewing their findings. In one example, they discovered about 1,300 microplastic fragments – more than the levels found last year in the unknown Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

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Their analysis indicates this pollution comes from single-use plastic bottles and plastic packaging, according to Greenpeace.

Greenpeace travel to Sargasso is part of the yearly journey of the post-to-post campaign for a Global Ocean The agreement calls for the protection of a network of ocean sanctuaries covering 30% of the world's oceans by 2030.

Next to Esperanza, the mantle trawl is sluggishly removing water samples from the surface of the ocean filtered through long tail tubes. An hour later, the collection shows us the sticky reality of water.

"In most cases we are sampling where there is sargassum we have a lot of found plastics because they were getting sargassum, "Celia Ojeda, a marine biologist with a PhD in ocean conservation, explains, pointing to tiny pieces floating on top of a sample.

"It's a really nice blue; you can't imagine what's under it. And then when you get the sample you're really taken aback by the numbers," he said.

Read more: Food will be poor, costly and less nutritious, says climate report

With research assistant Shane Antonition, who is with the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo, spend hours Ojeda in the selection of sargassum and what was collected in the manta trawl net.

Taken small pieces with tongs, he carefully places them on paper to count.

Antonition has been part of a similar study over the years. "The more I learned, the more I saw how good a space shuttle is, and how cruel these systems are and how much we rely on ecosystem services to keep us alive. So, (we) is learning more about our impact on the world and using those findings to inform change that can prevent further degradation of our environment, ”he said.

From your rag to your plate, through the ocean

Only around 9% of plastic waste is recycled. Most single-use plastics end up in landfills or burn out in large toxic flames. Some find their way to our rivers or oceans, either flushing through water systems or being blown away by the waves of wind.

  A close-up shot of small pieces of plastic at Sargassum. The plastics are damaged until they & # 39; g they are very small re-consumed by wildlife and enter the food chain.

"It's entering the food chain." Ojeda explained. "Fish and shrimp eat plastic, we eat them or the fish that eat them, and it ends up in our bodies somehow."

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Disposed of plastic people – food wrappers, plastic bags, even nappies – are back in the homes in the food you buy. A study from June 2019 said that the average person consumes around 2,000 microplastic particles a week – around five grams, or the weight of a credit card. What scientists still do not understand is what plastic or poisons containing plastic can do to us.

Plastic pollution is hardly a new phenomenon. A study on the coast of Bermuda back in the early 1970s found 3,500 pieces of plastic per square foot. A more recent, as yet unpublished study by the Bermuda Aquarium Museum and Zoo found that nearly 42% of fish samples are tucked into a microphone.

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The weight of evidence that humans are contaminating one of our major sources The food is extremely nutritious – not only introducing potential toxins into our own bodies, but also polluting entire ecosystems and killing valuable marine animals.

How can you protect the ocean?

The key to replicating ocean plastic is to stop it from getting there in the first place, but the solution isn't just lying around recycling.

"We need to be reusing and refining," Ojeda said. "Consumers do a lot of things, but if you as a consumer go to the supermarket and you can't buy something that isn't wrapped in plastic it's not your fault. You're a human being. It's companies; companies; take the step, change needs to lead – and governments need to push companies.

"To recover the oceans we have to stop them (plastic) now. If we think we can stop them for 10 years, we can phase them out, no: we have to stop using single-use plastic. Then the seas will have time to clean. "

  The sunset aboard Esperanza, a Greenpeace vessel that strikes the Sargasso Sea for microplastic samples.

" We have to look at all ways we don't understand the fate of plastic, "says Robbie Smith, a marine ecologist and curator of the Bermuda Aquarium and Zoo." Recycling is amazing, even in the US. The countries are facing the truth, but they are not ready to turn off the tap.

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"We need to look at the types of plastics we use and remove the ones that can't be recycled. We need to clean up land-based resources (landfills and so on).

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[19659017] "We need to be more respectful that plastic is a great tool but can be a nightmare, "he added." There is no quick fix. Nothing fast. It takes a decade or two for the plastic to reach the water. "

Few of us witnessed what lies beyond the oceans far from our homes, which is one of the many challenges for ocean preservation and why so few really understand how scary the situation is. Out of sight, out of mind.

But in reality, it ends right in front of us – and inside of us – even when we can't see it.

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