To lots of people, the ocean is huge and mysterious. There’s a lot of rumors circulating – do you believe everything you’ve heard about the ocean? Stem the tide of misinformation with these myth busters:
Myth: There are huge islands of plastic trash in the open ocean
Truth: Yes, there is a lot of trash in the oceans, but when you’re out in the middle of the ocean, the most harmful trash is what you don’t see. Over 95% of the plastic inside ocean gyres, has been degraded into pieces that are smaller than a grain of rice. You wouldn’t even notice the plastic pieces if you were swimming in the ocean.
The pieces are so small that animals often swallow them without noticing. This can have harmful effects to their digestive system since these fish, birds and turtles can’t digest them and so feel full without getting any nourishment.
Surprisingly, even these rice-grain sized pieces of plastic are still not nearly as harmful as mircoplastics, which can only be seen under a microscope and are small enough to be absorbed into the blood stream of organisms and alter their hormone systems. Most micro plastics come from small nylon strands in washing machine run-off.
Myth: Sharks are vicious man-eaters
Truth: Movies like Jaws often portray sharks as being vicious, human-hungry killers. In reality, sharks, like most fish, are quite shy and usually swim away from divers and swimmers when they do encounter us. Sharks are also curious, they are intrigued by us, so when they do approach a person they are merely investigating a novelty.
When sharks do kill people, it’s usually surfers who fall victim to these attacks, since surfboards can look like a seal (a delicacy for sharks) from below. Even with these instances, sharks only kill about 10 people per year, in fact you’re more likely to be killed by a falling vending machine than by a shark. While sharks only kill a few of us, it is estimated that we kill about 100 million of them every year.
Myth: The ocean provides us with seafood, and that’s about it
Truth: Seafood is critically important – 1 billion people depend on seafood as their primary source of protein, most of whom also depend on seafood as their main source of income – but the oceans give us so much more than just food:
Oceans produce 50% of our oxygen – Every second breath you take is thanks to the oceans, they are literally giving you life.
Oceans absorb 26% of our Carbon Dioxide emissions – That’s 2.5 billion tons of Carbon Dioxide, which is more than double the US emissions from cars each year.
Oceans control our weather and keep us warm – Europe is much further north than the US but has much warmer climates thanks to the warm Gulf Stream flowing reaching western Europe.