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Tragedy of the Albatross

October 21, 2009
image via flickr user stormpetrel1

image via flickr user stormpetrel1

image via author Vincent Legendre, wikimedia commons

image via author Vincent Legendre, wikimedia commons

image via author Vincent Legendre, wikimedia commons

image via author Vincent Legendre, wikimedia commons

Photographer Chris Jordan (who’s work I blogged about not too long ago) has been on a trip out to see the vast garbage swirl in the middle of the Pacific. He recently stopped at the Midway Atoll to photograph the completely devastating effects the tiny pieces of plastic (known as the Pacific garbage patch – twice the size of Texas) in the Pacific ocean are having on Albatross chicks. If you can stomach it, check out some of his photos (called Midway) of the dead birds’ stomach contents — no real food and a whole lot of plastic:

http://www.chrisjordan.com/

With these disturbing visuals of our plastic consumption we simply have to ask – is it worth it? Is that plastic bottle of coke worth the poisoning of the already endangered Albatross?

Albatross chick, Midway Island (image via flickr user mehughes)

Albatross chick, Midway Island (image via flickr user mehughes)

If facing this garbage food wasn’t enough, 300,000 albatross are killed annually because of long-line fishing techniques used to catch swordfish or tuna. The birds dive after seeing a squid, or tiny morsel of food, but the hook is inside that tasty treat, and the bird is hooked by beak, throat or stomach and it drowns.

So if we do value the diversity of species on the earth, and the Albatross in particular, we need radical changes to save them. We need not only to understand that their decline is purely human-induced, but also to look at the devastation long-line fishing is having on all kinds of marine and bird life – sharks, sea turtles, and many, many seabirds.

When large fish such as tuna, swordfish, halibut, and cod are the reason we’re out there using long-line fishing techniques, and those fish are all nearing endangerment, what is the point? We’re killing turtles and birds so that we can completely empty the ocean of these larger fish?

Midway Island (image via flickr user midwayjourney)

Midway Island (image via flickr user midwayjourney)

The plight of the albatross is horrible, but it points us to a much greater concern: the future of our oceans. It seems that the oceans, as vast as they are, and as sustainable as they can be are quickly becoming victim of the tragedy of the commons. Take what you will, and destroy the system for individual gain.

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