Growing Danger of Plastic Pollution Threatens World's Largest Marine Reserve

Press release - 3 November, 2006
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, the world's largest and most recently designated marine reserve (1), could be under threat from one of the world's largest floating rubbish dumps, according to the international environmental group Greenpeace. Pollution, especially plastic, is a growing global threat to the oceans, choking and trapping wildlife at sea and on land according to a Greenpeace report published today (2). Plastic is gathered by ocean currents from around the North Pacific and endlessly circulates in the "Trash Vortex", an area that can grow to be the size of Texas, in the North Pacific gyre.

The Greenpeace ship M.Y. Esperanza has recently departed Hawaii as part of the Defending Our Oceans expedition (3). The recently declared U.S. National Monument- the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands lies close to this accumulation of trash, putting one of the most vital links in the chain of oceans health at risk.

"During the course of the Defending Our Oceans expedition, we have seen coastlines covered in rubbish, but out at sea the problem becomes even greater - with turtles, albatrosses and many other marine creatures becoming entangled in floating plastic or even choking on it," warned Greenpeace International scientist, Adam Walters, onboard the Esperanza.  "The danger to marine life has been known for decades, but the scale of the problem has not been realised. With plastic consumption rapidly increasing globally, plastic has become ubiquitous in the ocean," added Walters.

The problem is a global one. "It is ironic that this debris ends up floating past the largest marine reserve in the world," said Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaigner Buffy Baumann. "While we applaud the decision to designate the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands as a U.S. national monument, we need international action to create properly protected marine reserves around the world. In order to counter all the threats to the oceans - from pollution to overfishing and habitat destruction - the world needs to realize that ocean protection must begin on land," Baumann added.

Greenpeace is demanding that governments put in place a global network of marine reserves, covering 40% of the world's oceans. In addition, marine pollution will only be stopped if all nations take responsibility for their excessive consumption and adopt a "Zero Waste" plan including waste reduction and recycling.

Other contacts: Steve Smith, Greenpeace USA communications. Buffy Baumann, Greenpeace USA oceans Campaigner. Adam Walters, Greenpeace International Science Unit - all on the Esperanza on: + 47 514 079 87. Please note the Esperanza is currently GMT-9hrs. Isabel Leal, Greenpeace International Communications, on +34 647 24 15 02

VVPR info: Photos & video are available on: Photo: +31 653 819 121, Video: +31 653 504 721

Notes: (1) In June 2006, U.S. President George Bush designated the area surrounding the Northwestern Hawaiian Island as a National Monument.

(2) The report on the global impact of plastic pollution in the ocean can be downloaded here:

(3)The Defending Our Oceans campaign is a 15-month expedition, the biggest the organisation has ever undertaken, to show the threats to the oceans and outline a key solution of a global network of marine reserves.

Exp. contact date: 2006-11-18 00:00:00