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Trash Tuesday from out at sea

I can't speak for other areas of the world, but if you have sailed in the Mediterranean Sea, I am sure that you will have noticed white polystyrene containers floating on the surface of the water.

Human beings have evolved to find pattern in chaos and to visually identify what should not be in a scene. This ability helped our ancestors to survive by being able to spot a sabre toothed tiger stalking them in the long grass.

Nowadays, perhaps that skill is no longer needed as much as a survival skill, but our DNA still carries that evolutionary trait.

I have found this pattern finding ability to be particularly apparent while sailing. I will sit and stare at the blue ocean for hours on end and find myself fixating and noticing the small items which should not be there in the field of vision in front of me. Floating like miniature icebergs on the surface of the water, are too many white polystyrene containers, discarded or blown overboard by the fishing vessels which ply the waters of the Mediterranean. They can be seen from a long way off, and once seen, I cannot un-see them.

Each of these containers is made up of thousands upon thousands of small white balls compressed together and while they are usually intact out at sea, we have noticed how easily they are broken into smaller and smaller pieces once they reach the shore. Eventually one container, used to insulate and transport fish, can become hundreds if not thousands of small pieces of foamed polymer. These small balls do not sink to the bottom of the ocean, but float on the surface until broken up by the UV of the sun.

We know of no solution to stopping this problem other than trying to educate the fishing community to take better care of the containers they use.

In the meantime, if we are motoring - for it is much harder to do with sails up - we always try to slow down, come alongside the trash and hook it with our boat hook.

If, like us, you can't un-see the "fake mini icebergs" while you are out at sea, please take out your frustration by harpooning a few of them as your journey progresses through the water.

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