Overfishing, plastic garbage and Fuku — the Pacific is broken

‘The ocean is broken’

October 19, 2013

Greg Ray

Nothing could have prepared Ivan Macfadyen for the devastation all around him as he sailed the Pacific. […]

Fish.Wasted: Bagfuls of dead fish were thrown overboard, a by-product of the hunt for tuna. Photo: Ivan Macfadyen
'It felts as if the ocean itself was dead,' says Ivan Macfadyen.‘It felts as if the ocean itself was dead,’ says Ivan Macfadyen. Photo: Lindsey Hoshaw
-Pain: Newcastle’s Ivan Macfadyen on board his yacht. Photo: Max Mason Hubers
[…]”After we left Japan it felt as if the ocean itself was dead,” Macfadyen says. ”We saw one whale, sort of rolling helplessly on the surface with what looked like a big tumour on its head. I’ve done a lot of miles on the ocean in my life and I’m used to seeing turtles, dolphins, sharks and big flurries of feeding birds. But this time, for 3000 nautical miles, there was nothing alive to be seen.”But garbage was everywhere.”Part of it was the aftermath of the tsunami that hit Japan a couple of years ago. The wave came in over the land, picked up an unbelievable load of stuff and carried it out to sea. And it’s still out there, everywhere you look,” Macfadyen says.

Something in the water off Japan reacted with the yacht’s distinctive shiny yellow paint and turned it dull.Ivan Macfadyen is still coming to terms with the horror of the voyage. ”The ocean is broken,” he says.
However, much of the world has little idea of the vastness of the problem and Macfadyen is looking at ways of alerting governments and organisations to the disaster that floats offshore.
He intends approaching the organisers of Australia’s major ocean races, trying to enlist yachties into an international scheme that uses volunteer yachtsmen to monitor debris and marine life. Macfadyen signed up to a similar scheme while in the US, responding to an approach by US academics who asked yachties to fill in daily survey forms and collect samples for radiation testing – a significant concern after the tsunami and nuclear power station failure in Japan.
”I asked them why don’t we push for a fleet to go and clean up the mess,” Macfadyen says. ”They said they’d calculated that the environmental damage from burning the fuel to do that job would be worse than just leaving the debris there.”
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By piotrbein