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[greenyes] What on earth are we doing to her?

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<span class="articleSubHeadline">Explorer says stomachs of many dead seabirds found in ocean on way to northwestern islands have toys, lighters, bottle caps in them</span><br>
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						<b>By Matt Sedensky<BR>Associated Press</b>
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			<B>Saturday, August 02, 2003</B> -  HONOLULU -- Explorer Jean-Michel Cousteau headed to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands last month imagining unspoiled terrain -- pristine masses of land in the middle of nowhere. <P>
What he found was shocking: Hundreds of tons of trash, thousands of dead seabirds, the ocean used as a garbage can. <P>
"It was heartbreaking," said Cousteau, speaking by satellite phone Thursday from his 96-foot yacht, Searcher, as it headed toward Laysan Island, about 935 miles northwest of Honolulu. "I was personally very much affected by the amount of debris and the effect that it has, particularly on the bird population and monk seals and turtles." <P>
The 65-year-old son of legendary French oceanographer Jacques Cousteau departed July 6 from Honolulu Harbor to film a television documentary about the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, untouched dots of land that stretch 1,200 miles northwest of the main Hawaiian islands. <P>
Cousteau and his crew made stops at Midway Island, French Frigate Shoals, Gardner Pinnacles and Maro Reef, among other places, before reaching Kure Atoll last Saturday. <P>
Along the way, they were dismayed to find a littered landscape. <P>
"You find in the stomach of seabirds that ultimately die on those islands cigarette lighters by the millions, some of them still with fuel in it," Cousteau said. "You find toys from kids -- plastic toys. You find caps of plastic bottles. You find vials of medical drugs, some of them intact, and on and on and on." <P>
Cousteau said his 19-member team found hundreds of tons of plastic -- 60 to 70 tons on Midway Island alone. <P>
"It would be like if you had a plastic recycling bin and somebody dumped it out," said Don Palawski, refuge manager for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service division that oversees the Northwestern Hawaiian isles. <P>
Much of the debris washes ashore. But seabirds also find various floating bits and bring them back to feed their young. <P>
They can accumulate as much as 10 ounces of plastic in their stomachs before they die, Cousteau said. <P>
The result is carcasses of Laysan and blackfooted albatross littered across the shorelines. At night, it becomes a smorgasbord for crabs. <P>
The junk also depletes the incomparable coral reefs and traps endangered monk seals and threatened green sea turtles. <P>
"The way we treat the ocean as a garbage can is affecting every form of life," Cousteau said. <P>
Aside from the various plastic that floats toward the islands, derelict fishing gear is also causing problems. <P>
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration collected 107 tons of nets and lines and other fishing gear last year on Pearl and Hermes Atoll alone, according to Greg Schorr, marine debris coordinator for the organization. This year, they've found 90 tons near Pearl and Hermes and Midway, with another month of collecting to go. <P>
"The nets will come through and bulldoze an area of reef," Schorr said. "As it rolls across the top, it breaks off the coral in its path." <P>
The Northwestern Hawaiian Islands are largely uninhabited, which may make the accumulation of so much trash paradoxical. But Palawski explains the area is a convergence zone for currents that creates a "bathtub whirlpool-like ring." <P>
They become a magnet for mounds of refuse from everywhere. <P>
"We can identify whiskey from all over the world," Cousteau said, noting the tiny liquor bottles he's discovered in his journey. "It's not one nation in particular, it's everybody." <P>
Despite the damage that's been done to the islands, Palawski said they are still "very special places." <P>
"We like to refer to them as jewels of the Pacific," he said. "They still shine." <P>
Cousteau, who is expected to arrive back in Honolulu on Aug. 7 or 8, and whose documentary is expected to air in fall 2004, also was hopeful. <P>
"Nature is very resilient," he said. "It can make it. It can survive, provided we give it a chance." <P>
On the Net:Ocean Futures Society: <a href="";></a> <P></html>

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