satellite view from PMNM
E komo mai; welcome! Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge is surrounded by a lei of foam in the middle of the North Pacific; it's a beautiful, special place.

Not only are there albatross on Midway, but many other interesting kinds of wildlife, both on the land and in the sea. Please enjoy exploring FOAM, an educational blog actively done while on Midway from May through August 2010. Posts are added from off-Midway, as information becomes available. If you're interested in a particular topic, please use the search box or the alphabetical list of "labels" along the left side of the blog page.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Marine Debris: Little, Green, Square Things -- ANSWER!

In an earlier post from June 20, I told you I'd make a new post if I found out what the little, green tubes are that I was finding as marine debris and in a bolus.  Well, here's the new post!

Researchers and concerned citizens in Japan and Hawai`i have emailed us explaining that the little (~1.5 cm, or ~half-inch) tubes are used as "spacers" in the Japanese oyster aquaculture industry.  The tubes are placed between empty scallops, as you can see from my sketch on the left, and then lines of the shells are hung in seawater.  Baby oysters attach to the scallop shells and grow.

Sometimes these spacers must come loose and float out to sea.  Then, once in awhile, an albatross swallows a spacer as they fish for food in the North Pacific.  Spacers are carried to Midway Atoll both when albatross throw up their boluses while standing in fields on Midway and when lone spacers float ashore on Midway's beaches.

photo by Y. Ohkura
But let's not forget that sometimes U.S.-made plastic pellets*, incorrectly called "nurdles" (pictured on the right,) often wash up on beaches in Japan.  Trash from one part of the world becomes marine debris in another part of the world.  By sharing information, we can work together to solve the marine debris problem! 

(*Plastic pellets are small, plastic spheres that are melted and used to make all sorts of plastic products.)


Anonymous said...

Hi Barbara -- I am working on some research on the resin pellets you have pictured in your blog. Please do not use the term "nurdles" as that is a slang term (used by many). Please use the term pellet, resin pellet or pre-production pellet. It helps to keep the technical aspect in focus of this issue. Thanks much. Seba Sheavly

Barb said...

Thanks for the correction, Seba! I've gone into the original post above and fixed the information.