Portuguese Man o’ War

by Goutham Krishna

Scientific name: Physalia physalis

Phylum: Cnidaria

Family: Physaliidae

The Portuguese man o’ war, commonly known as the “blue bottle jellyfish” is a marine predatory species, commonly found in the Atlantic and Indian ocean. It is an organism that usually lives in the ocean surface, with venomous microscopic nematocysts and feeding tentacles that are powerful enough to sting and paralyze mall fishes, pelagic crustaceans, and other invertebrates. These tentacles are normally 30 feet longer with the maximum length can extend up to 165 feet. Portuguese man o’ war is a species that is found mostly in tropical and subtropical ocean waters. They are reported to be seen in the coastlines of India and there were several incidents of visitors and natives in the shore being stung by this species.  Though the chances of a human getting killed by sting from these species are slim, there had been some incidents where unfortunate deaths have been reported due to the same.

Though these species are called blue bottle jellyfishes due to their similarity in appearance with jellyfishes, they are not genetically related to jellyfishes at all. They belong to the category of species known as siphonophores which are a colony of specialized species called zooids that work together as one. The man o war’s present in the Pacific Ocean (Pacific man o’ war) which are usually smaller than the common Portuguese man o’ wars in the Atlantic and Indian oceans are currently recognized as the same species though recent advancements in genetic studies are suggesting that they might be different species.

These species do not have the ability to swim in the water, instead of swimming, they use the winds and ocean currents to propel forward in the sea surface. Records suggest that the name “Portuguese man o’ war” is derived from a medieval naval reference. Since their species generally floats in the surface seawater and at that time has a reference to 18th-century Portuguese warships called man o’ wars.

Every colony of Portuguese man o’ wars have common and specific sex. Though marine biologists aren’t completely sure how the Man O’ War procreates, Mating generally occurs in the autumn season when the male and female colonies discharge sperms and eggs respectively in the water. The newly fertilized larvae of man o’ wars buds of new zooids of same-sex while growing and thereby forms a new colony.

The organism is translucent and appears in diverse colors including blue, pink, orange etc. where blue is most common. Man o’ wars has some predators of their own, including loggerhead turtle, The violet sea-snail etc. Portuguese man o’ war, due to its venomous nature are rarely used for any humane purposes at all. Hence, they are of very low economic and utilitarian values for humans.

Tides – Peculiarities & Significances

by Goutham Krishna

Tides are the long shallow-water waves generally found in the ocean and sea by the gravitational attraction of the moon, rotation of Earth and to a relatively lesser extent by the gravitational attraction of the sun. The imbalance between Earth’s centripetal force and the above-mentioned gravitational forces acting on Earth’s surface creates some residual forces in the Earth’s surface; the horizontal component of these residual forces pushes ocean water into two equal tidal bulges in the opposite sides of Earth. These bulges are accountable for the formation of tides.

The regular rise and fall of the ocean’s water are referred to as high and low tides. High tides happen when water covers most of the shore after rising to its highest level whereas the low tides are characterized by the retreat of water to its lowest level, moving away from the shore. The rotation of tidal bulges according to the change in the moon’s position is responsible for the phenomena of high and low tides. According to the occurrence of high and low tides on a lunar day, the tidal cycle can be divided into diurnal, semi-diurnal and mixed. A tidal cycle with two nearly equal high tides and low tides per lunar day is called a semi-diurnal tidal cycle, whereas a tidal cycle, one each high and low tides per day is called diurnal. A mixed tidal cycle is when two unequal high tides and low tides occur per lunar day.

India has a total coastline of 7516.6 km in total, with the mainland having 5422.6 km coastline. The Indian mainland can be divided into the east coast and west coast according to its geographical location, where the east coast is bounded on the east by the Bay of Bengal and the west coast is bounded on the west by the Arabian sea. Both east and west coasts of India experience two high tides and low tides per day, but the tidal cycle of the east coast is semi-diurnal whereas that of the west coast is mixed.

The forecasted schedule of high tides and low tides of Chennai coast, which belongs to the southeast coastal line of India is given below,

The role of tides in balancing and maintaining marine life and the ecosystem is pivotal. We can find numerous marine flora and fauna that are highly dependent on tides and tidal patterns for their survival. There are many fishes, which depend on the tides for their food. These fishes wait for the tides to wash smaller fishes into the sea or to pull them to the areas where food is abundant. The migratory and feeding patterns of many fishes are directly linked with the tides. Also, there are various seabirds that catch fish depending on the tides. Moreover, the phenomena of tidal pools; which are the isolated pockets of rocks and seawater found in the intertidal zones, can host diverse marine species and vegetation. But at low tide zones, these species are exposed to sunlight and predators at varying degrees.

Apart from these, tides are also important as they have the potential to become a regular energy generator in the near future. Tidal energy is naturally abundant and renewable and more importantly, is an emission-free energy source. Presently there are 8 operational tidal energy power stations in the world and many are under construction and planning. India is planning to build a tidal power station in the Gulf of Kutch and the project is now in its R&D (research and development) stage. Hence tides will be a trump card in the future, for building resilience against climate change and its after-effects.

Coral Reefs of India

by Goutham Krishna

Coral reefs are a unique underwater ecosystem composed of reef-building coral species. Coral reefs are considered the most diverse and rich marine ecosystem on the planet, hosting about 25% of all marine species within an area less than 0.1% of the world oceans. Due to this peculiarity of the coral reef ecosystem, they are often called the rainforests of the sea. Reef-building corals are mainly found in shallow tropical and subtropical waters due to their biochemical requirements.

India, being centrally placed within the warm and tropical Indian ocean, therefore, exhibits the presence of Coral reef colonies in its marine territories. The main coral colonies in India are the Gulf of Kachchh, Lakshadweep, Palk Bay & Gulf of Mannar and Andaman and the Nicobar Islands. According to a study, the total area of coral reefs in India is estimated to be 2375 square kilometres. The three different types of reefs present in India include,

-> Fringing reefs: Reefs that are directly attached to the shore and spread towards the sea.

-> Barrier reefs: Separated from the landmass by a lagoon

-> Atolls: Continuous barrier reefs that extend all the way along a lagoon without any central islands

Coral reef colonies in India – Source: Research gate

As mentioned in the introductory part, coral reefs are rich in species diversity. The exact number of reef species present in the world is still unknown. The coral reefs of India are also hotspots of extraordinary biodiversity. According to a study done by Venkataraman, Indian reefs have a total of 199 species, recorded from 37 genera. Reefs in Andaman & Nicobar area are the most diverse coral reef ecosystem present in India, whereas the species diversity is relatively lower in the Gulf of Kachchh.

Coral reefs in Andaman – source: Andaman.com

Apart from the biocentric significances, coral reefs are important for human beings as they provide various value additions and services to humankind. The reefs have an undeniable role in industries like fisheries, pharmaceutical and minerals, tourism and allied sectors etc. Also, they provide various ecosystem services such as protection of the coastline, maintenance of air quality and Filtration of nearshore waters.  Hence coral reefs have direct and indirect impacts on the economy and livelihoods at an individual and societal level. In this context, the need to sustainably conserve coral reefs from degradation becomes of prime relevance.

Presently, coral reefs in the world are facing different types of threats which are either natural or anthropogenic. Climate change and its impact on the natural equilibrium is hampering the status of coral reefs also. Variation in content of salinity and pH in ocean water, increased sediment deposition, change in temperature pattern etc. are some of the natural threats faced by coral reefs whereas anthropogenic activities like Mining, bottom fishing, Ocean pollution, unsustainable tourism etc. intensifies their extent.

The situation of Coral reefs in India is no different. Experts estimate that three fourth of the coral reefs in India will be endangered by 2030 if no progressive measures are taken to conserve them. A multi-stakeholder approach to managing and conserving the coral reef system of India is immensely important. Scientific and sustainable approaches to protect the rainforests of oceans must hence be an urgent priority for us.

Occurrence of Tropical Cyclones in the Indian Coast

by Goutham Krishna

Tropical cyclones can be defined as rapid rotating storms originating over warm tropical and subtropical oceans, with a low-pressure centre and the presence of spiralling clouds in the surroundings. They are one of the most devastating natural hazards that can cause immense damage once it makes landfall. The Arabian Sea and Bay of Bengal, situated in the north Indian ocean, are part of an active cyclone basin. Though it is the least active basin only contributing to 7% of the world’s tropical cyclones, its impact is high due to the densely populated coastal line bounding it.

Track map of all North Indian Ocean cyclones from 1970 to 2005

The major driving force behind the formation of a tropical cyclone is the transfer of water vapour and heat from the warm ocean waters to the atmospheric air primarily by evaporation. The pressure difference developed as an effect of this warm rising air results in the formation of tropical cyclones. The temperature of the sea surface, geographical location, atmospheric temperature etc. are key factors with important roles to play in the formation and strength of these cyclones.

The Indian Ocean is the warmest ocean in the world with an average sea surface temperature ranging from 19-30 degrees Celsius. Hence the tropical waters of the Indian ocean are highly prone to the formation of tropical cyclones. Generally, the cyclones formed in the North Indian Ocean tends to move either in the South-west direction or in the North-East direction, according to the winds. In the Arabian sea, they are most likely to move in the north-western direction, targeting the Arabian Peninsula, whereas some may move in the North-East direction towards the Gujarat / Maharashtra coast. In the Bay of Bengal, storms generally move in the North-westwards before making landfall and then change direction into North-East.

Since the Western and Eastern coasts of India are densely populated with cities, commercial and industrial centres etc. the impact of cyclones if it makes landfall will be high. Cyclone Tauktae can be taken as the most recent example of disastrous cyclonic storms. Taukte, which made landfall in the state of Gujarat in May 2021 caused at least 169 deaths and damage around 40,000 crore rupees. Heavy rainfalls following these cyclones are also disastrous as it causes coastal flooding in the impacted area. Due to global warming and climate change, the frequency and intensity of tropical cyclones are likely to increase in the near future. An increase in temperature will lead to increased surface sea temperature and also will maximize the vapour content in the atmosphere and both of these will contribute enhance the intensity and frequency of cyclones.

Presently, India has advanced cyclone detection systems through which it is possible to forecast and detect each and every potential cyclonic threat at its stage of infancy. Forecasts regarding cyclones are given by six cyclone warning centres located at Kolkata, Bhubaneswar, Visakhapatnam, Chennai, Mumbai and Ahmedabad. Each of these centres has its own area of operation, which cumulatively covers total coastal stretch of the country. These systems have helped to reduce the impacts and damages of tropical cyclones to a large extent. But still, a cyclone is one of the most disastrous forms of natural disaster which always has a smell of fear and panic associated with it.  

Estuaries of Kerala: an overview

by Goutham K

Estuaries can be defined as partially enclosed bodies of water found in the coastal areas, where the freshwater from rivers, lakes or streams mixes with the saline water from the ocean.  Brackish water formed by the mixing of saline and freshwater is a peculiarity of estuaries.  Estuaries are delicate ecosystems where diverse varieties of flora and fauna which are adapted to live in brackish water are seen. Moreover, many species rely on estuaries for food, breeding and various other purposes. Hence, they are considered living laboratories for bioscientists around the world.

 Due to the geographical peculiarities of Kerala, with its long coastal stretch with numerous rivers draining to the sea is home to 27 different estuaries in its 589 Km coastline. Vembanad is the largest Estuary in the state followed by Ashtamudi, Korapuzha, Paravoor and Beypore. The estuarian ecosystem of Kerala is much important in the context of diverse and rare vegetation present in these geographical zones.

Mangroves are one of the most important species that are seen mostly in the estuarine regions. Due to their salt-tolerant nature, mangroves of Kerala are usually situated in the coastal river mouths and estuaries. 18 different species of Mangroves are present in Kerala, among which Avicennia officinalis and Rhizophora mucronata are the dominant species whereas Ceriops tagal, Avicennia alba and Sonneratia alba are rare. Not only do mangroves provide better habitat structure to diverse vegetation, but also offers various ecosystem services such as protection of topsoil, coastal protection, nutrient cycling etc.

Mangrove species in Kadalundi estuary, Kerala- source: Manorama online

Apart from this, estuarine ecosystems in Kerala are also home to various rare aquatic fauna. The abundant distribution of zooplanktons in these ecosystems plays a pivotal role in maintaining the balance of marine food chains. Zooplanktons are the intermediate link between Phytoplanktons and fishes in the marine food chain. According to the latest study conducted by a group of researchers from the Kerala University of Fisheries and Ocean Studies (KUFOS), Kochi, 90 different fish species belonging to 17 orders and 48 species were reported to be found in the estuarine ecosystem of Vembanad estuary, the largest in Kerala. This figure points out a steep 40% decrease in fauna diversity compared to the figures of the 1980s. Similarly, the Kadalundi estuary in the state reported the presence of 34 different fish species of 24 families belonging to 8 orders. Likewise, each of the 27 estuaries in the state is home to varied aquatic species and vegetation that are of high ecological significance.

Similarly, due to the delicate ecological system in the estuaries, its nearby areas are suitable habitats for various traditional and migratory birds. Kumarakom and Kadalundi bird sanctuaries which are close to Vembanad and Kadalundi estuaries respectively are concrete examples of this. 170 different species of birds have been observed to date in the Kadalundi sanctuary whereas the Kumarakom sanctuary has the presence of local birds like waterfowl, koel, owl, egret, heron, cormorant, moorhen, darter, and brahminy kite, as well as the migratory gull, teal, tern, flycatcher etc. many migratory birds from Serbia, The Himalayas, reach here during seasons.

Some of the estuaries in Kerala are also famous tourist destinations due to their aesthetic importance. The Ashtamudi estuary and lake is one of the most visited destinations in the state along with the Vembanad lake and estuary. Backwaters coming from these locations are one of the unique specialities of Kerala tourism. Moreover, these estuaries contribute highly to the livelihood and economy of local communities residing in proximity due to the abundant resources present here. But aftereffects some anthropological interventions in these estuarine habitats like change in shoreline, sedimentation, improper engineering constructions etc. are causing the estuaries to shrunk, both geographically and biologically. According to a recently published report, the Vembanad estuary is shrinking by an area of 0.288 square km per year which is concerning from an ecological point of view. The Paravur estuary, which faced a shrunk in flood plain deposit from 4.95 to 2.12 km square as a consequence of land-use changes is another example of the same. Moreover, the ecological diversity and environmental degradation of the ecosystem is another example of the threats faced by estuaries of Kerala.

Travelling Back Home

by Aswin Sankar

If we take a walk in Chennai’s coastal area by 11:00pm – 04:00am during January to March we can see those females, who won the race with a rabbit in our kindergarten books, who were born in this coastal area a decade ago, travelling back home to lay their eggs. Yes, they’re Olive Ridley Turtles.

They got their name from head-shaped, olive green colour carapace. It will take 45days for these eggs to hatch. Once the babies are out, they will get into the sea for a long journey. It is a known fact that Olive Ridley turtles travel long-distance but how far? According to a paper that was published in the Chelonian Conservation and Biology, a peer-reviewed semi-annual scientific international journal of turtle and tortoise research, Olive Ridley turtles can travel as far as 9000kms! These babies which come to life in Chennai’s coastal area are capable enough to travel to Australia or South Africa or even to Japan! Though many babies come to life, only one out of 1000 turtle babies make it to adulthood.

These babies which leave Chennai within a short time after their birth comes back to the same place after 15years to lay eggs as they attain sexual maturity. After leaving Chennai’s coast, these babies feed themselves with algae, small fish and fish eggs. As they grow, they’ll have a varied diet of eating algae, lobsters, crabs, tunicates, jellyfish, shrimp, fish, and fish eggs. They can dive 200m to 500m deep for food. These varied diets help Olive Ridley Turtles to grow as big as two feet and they weigh around 35kgs. Olive Ridley turtles practice nesting in mass, solidarity and sometimes in mixed strategy. Chennai is not the only place these turtles live, they are spread across tropical waters in the Pacific, Atlantic and Indian oceans. They can be seen in the coastal areas of 80 countries.

Though it is said that Olive Ridley turtles are abundant, in the past two decades their population has been decreased by 30% globally. The major reason for this population drop is pollution. These turtles eat plastic bags and other microplastics thinking that it’s jellyfish and other small fishes. Also, they get stuck in ghost nets and clothes which make it difficult for them to swim in the water and move inland. And due to pollution in coastal areas, babies struggle to reach the water. To prevent them from these pollutions, to ensure these babies reach the water and come back for nesting after a decade safe, there are several organizations working around the world. E.F.I. is one among them. E.F.I. conduct several beach clean-ups to keep the coastal area and the ocean clean. It is because of these organizations, even after a decade those babies who leave their home after a short time, travel back home.

Image source: Olive Ridley Project, WWF, Roundglass sustain

Shielding from sunlight, shadowing coral reefs

The loyal tube of sunscreen becomes your life savior at the beach on days when the sun blazes against your skin. The lotion squirmed out of the tube is as essential to you sometimes as is water to fish. This lotion, however, is an (un)necessary evil. Its inconspicuous disadvantages make it a lethal threat to one of the most significant components of marine ecosystems – coral reefs. 

What are coral reefs?

Coral reefs are underwater structures that are formed from the skeletons of marine invertebrates called corals. These reefs are made up of thin layers of calcium carbonate present in the skeletons of corals.

Needless to say, coral reefs are substantial components of the marine ecosystem. They provide shelter, food and substrate for a plethora of other organisms, and hence, are indispensable.

India is gifted with four coral reefs. These are the Gulf of Mannar, the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, Lakshadweep and the Gulf of Kutch.

Coral reefs (Image Source)
Coral reefs in India (Image Source)

What is coral bleaching?

As global warming continues to heat oceans, the phenomenon of coral bleaching has come under the spotlight.

Coral reefs exhibit a symbiotic relationship with an algal species called zooxanthellae. Zooxanthellae not only provide reefs with essential nutrients, but they are also responsible for their vibrant colours. As oceans become warmer, these algae die or are forced to leave the reef. In their absence, coral reefs eventually lose their colour and become white, giving rise to what is known as coral bleaching.

While coral bleaching as such may not lead to the death of corals, the occurrence and sustenance of this phenomenon for prolonged periods of time may do so.

Coral bleaching (Image Source)

Effects of sunscreen on coral reefs

Sunscreens contain noxious chemical substances such as as oxybenzone, Benzophenone-1, Benzophenone-8, OD-PABA, 4-Methyl benzylidene camphor, etc. These chemicals adversely affect coral reefs by damaging their DNA, encumbering their reproduction capabilities, causing their discoloration and so on.

When we swim out to the ocean with sunscreen smeared on our skin, certain dangerous chemicals seep into the water. We end up ticking another one of the many boxes of the potential reasons behind the end of the marine environment.

Though coral reefs enjoy the highest level of legal protection in India, under the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, that is not enough to protect them from lotions that we squeeze out of tubes and rub over ourselves, often unaware about their adverse effects.

The simple fact that we are capable of learning is a hopeful reassurance for the future of our environment. All it takes for us is to learn what we are doing wrong, and what can be done to better ourselves. That’s all that takes to assure ourselves the future that we yearn.

Besant Nagar Beach: Beach Mornings

Beach Morning flowers and creepers at Besant Nagar Beach

It was around 8:00 am, the day after Christmas that I visited Besant Nagar Beach for a walk. The water was cold while the sand was humid.

26th December 2004 is remembered for the Tsunami and Ocean Earthquake that affected throngs of coastal households.

What caught my attention was the beautiful Beach Morning creepers and flowers (botanically called ipomoea pas-caprae) that smiled as solace for what the coast had felt in 2004.

The pink and green flora and fauna have a lot of stories to say that buzzing bees dance to!

“Treasure-houses of marine life”

by Abitha Begam

Have you ever heard of marine life sanctuaries? I know we are quite familiar with bird sanctuaries, but what is these marine life sanctuaries? Marine life sanctuaries are places that come under protected areas where the intervention of humans is restricted. They are completely secured by the Government and its regulations. India consists of the wealthiest coastal ecosystem and has been a home for various rare species and it consists of six marine life sanctuaries.

One among them is the Rani Jhansi Marine National Park, which was named in the remembrance of Laxmibai, the queen (Rani) of Jhansi. It was found in 1996 in the Bay of Bengal with an area of 256.14 sq km which is present over Ritchie’s archipelago. The national park is completely reserved and activities like deforestation, hunting and poaching are strictly prohibited. The periphery of the park is lined with the mangrove forest and it is popular for its fruit-eating bats. They form the house for many species like dugongs, crocodiles, coral reefs, leatherback turtles and olive ridley turtles. The interesting fact about this park is it is very much suitable for people who desire to explore the underwater life of the creatures.

“Why are these fruit-eating bats so special? They are special because they are the only type of bats that rely on smell and vision rather than the solar system, the other fact is that they disperse undigested seed or pollens into the environment through which a healthy ecosystem develops”

Gahirmatha Marine sanctuary is a happy spot for turtle lovers which is located in the state of Odisha. It is said that during the pandemic situation, around 4.5 lakh of olive ridley turtles had been nestled, the presence of thick mangrove forests lining the coastal line and the swampy forests creates a home for these turtles. It is considered as the world’s largest olive ridley turtle nesting site and has been protected by the Odisha government which starts from the Dhamra River in the north and ends in the Brahmani River in the south that covers an area of 1435 sq. km.

Source: https://curlytales.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/Untitled-18-2.jpg

Another interesting marine national park in Tamil Nadu is the Gulf of Mannar which consists of coral reefs and a group of 21 small islands. It is a protected area and access for the public is very limited. It is considered one of the richest and largest national parks. The park houses some rare species like the sea horses, sea cucumber, pearl oyster, dugongs, mangroves, seagrasses and some of the other vulnerable mammals. The biosphere extends up to 6.23 sq km lining between Tuticorin and Dhanushkodi.

Malvan marine sanctuary, which is in Sindhudurg, Maharashtra is a famous tourist hotspot. It covers an area of 29.22 sq km. This place is considered the perfect spot for watching dolphins galloping in the sea. It forms a major habitat for the species like sea anemones, molluscs, pearl oysters, various types of coral reefs and a home for a variety of fishes like Putitor mahseer, catfishes, black-headed gulls, plovers and some of the birds like waterfowls, tern and plover. The tourist spot near the sanctuary offers some activities like scuba diving and snorkelling.

The fun fact about the place is “it is called as low budget Andaman and Nicobar Islands due to its crystal-clear water surface”

Source: Vibrant holidays https://i2.wp.com/thestrongtraveller.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/15562842904-min.jpg?resize=768%2C512&ssl=1

Mahatma Gandhi Marine National Park is an archipelago of 20 islands and rocks. This national park is situated near Wandoor in the Andaman Island which belongs to the south Andaman administrative district. For protecting the coral reefs and the nesting sites of turtles in 1983, this park was created. During the tsunami, though it had not got so much damage, it was restricted. Still, there are some islands that are protected. The two major important island groups are labyrinth and twin islands. They form the house for various coral reefs, colourful fishes, molluscs, shells, starfishes and saltwater crocodiles. It has also been found as a phenomenal spot for bird watching.

Source: jolly buoy island (one of the islands in the park) https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/aa/Jolly_Boys_Island_2010.jpg

“Did you know, which is the very first marine national park in India?”

Marine national park present in the Gulf of Kutch, Gujarat, is the very first national park in India, which consists of 42 islands. This park majorly focuses on the conservation of the coral reefs present in the 33 islands. Some of the best-known islands among them are Pirotan, Karubhar, Narara and Positra, which consists of sandy beaches, mangroves and swamps. These islands act as a home for various species like a sea mammal, sponges and various types of fish. The park has been declared in the category II area by the International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources (IUCN).

Source: Nat Geo Traveller https://i2.wp.com/thestrongtraveller.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/05/fish-min-1.jpg?resize=768%2C576&ssl=1

Floating Plastic Islands!

by Abitha Begam

Have you ever imagined an island made of plastics with a beach, lined with a plastic coastline? Yes! Kudos guys, we have made it. Have you ever thought about where all our plastic wastes are? Where does it go? Where does it gets settled?

It’s yes! Obviously, the answer would be to the ocean. Not all plastics enter the ocean but the majority do. Many of the plastic waste gets escaped from the environment reaches the nearby water bodies or gets dumped nearby and ends in the ocean. Whereas some plastics like microbeads present in the cleansers and toothpaste, intentionally makes a way in ease. All these plastics in combination with the microplastics form garbage patches.

So, now you can ask me a question, how do these large bottles, bigger plastic bags get shredded? Yes, I will explain you. Collectively, the plastic material discharged in the ocean will be left as such, during the season of monsoon, the ocean currents (gyres) formed drift all the garbage present on the surface of the ocean. Among them, some of the garbage when gets stuck into the aggressive ocean currents becomes microplastics and forms a garbage patch area.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Around 8.3 billion tonnes of garbage had been discharged into the oceans all these years. All this garbage mainly plastics forms patches over the oceans, some gets sunk while some float. There are five major offshore plastic accumulation zone namely North Pacific, South Pacific, North Atlantic, South Atlantic and the Indian ocean garbage patches among which The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP) is considered as the largest.

“Do you know how big is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP)? It is three times bigger than France in size”

Source: https://www.iberdrola.com/wcorp/gc/prod/en_US/comunicacion/docs/Infographic_five_plastic_islands.pdf
S.NoName of the garbage patchDiscovered inArea of the patch (Estimated)
 1.North Pacific19971.6 million Sq Km
2.South Pacific20112.6 million Sq Km
3.North Atlantic2009Estimated to be spread over 100 km
4.South Atlantic2017About to be estimated
5.Indian ocean20105 million Sq Km

According to a study made in 2010, it is found that India disposes nearly of 0.6 million tonnes of plastic wastes annually while China topped with 8.82 million wastes per year. These wastes collectively form garbage patches in the ocean.

According to a study led by Mirjam van der Mheen, as there is no direct technique for measuring the plastics present in the ocean, the team has made to retrieve data from 22,000 satellites since 1979, has made a simulation on how the monsoon currents drift the garbage in the ocean.  to their surprise, they have found how the Indian Ocean garbage patch has been missing.

Source: Simulation results of Mirijam van der Mheen study.

Due to the unique physical features of the Asian continent, the Indian ocean does not form a gyre, which obviously never let the garbage patches be present. The fact of the missing garbage patch is due to the monsoons that get created in the ocean. Hence due to the Asian monsoon system, the stronger trade winds push the waste towards the west of the southern Indian ocean making a way towards the south Atlantic Ocean.

These microplastics and the litter ends up in marine pollution and pose a serious threat to marine biodiversity. Some recent reports of South Africa highlighted the baby sea turtle dies due to the consumption of plastics.

So what’s in our hands, as it is a man-made crisis, it is completely possible to solve the problem, which requires some initiative and awareness from our side. Primarily reduction in the production of plastics could be made in control. Secondarily reduction in the usage of plastics can make it possible.

 Even a small change from our end can make bigger differences. Carrying a bag for groceries and purchase, switch over to steel lunch boxes and bottles, avoiding cosmetics consisting of microbeads, taking part in ocean clean-ups and by being minimalistic.,

Even your smaller change matters!