‘Altered Oceans’ Uncovers Effects of Marine Pollution

Eyonna Andreatte

The Los Angeles Times joined Town Hall Los Angeles at the National Center for the Preservation of Democracy, Oct. 3 to give members of the media, an opportunity to ask questions about its series “Altered Oceans.”

“Altered Oceans” a five-part series on the effects of pollution in our oceans, won the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for Explanatory Journalism.

Members of the Los Angeles Times speaking at the event included Marc Duvoisin, assistant managing editor, John Vande Wege, editorial multimedia manager, and Kenneth R. Weiss, staff reporter on California Coasts and Oceans.

Weiss, a key writer of the series, has studied the California coast and the world’s oceans for the last five years.

“We decided to attack the problems existing in our oceans now, rather than future problems, which lead to critics responding as though someone is saying that the sky is falling,” said Weiss.

The series shows that there is a great decline of fish in the sea. Fisherman are now filling their shrimp boats with jellyfish rather than shrimp. There are also sea turtles developing tumors in?Hawaii, and toxic algae is killing marine mammals.?

“Altered Oceans” makes the point that sick and dying sea lions indicate something is terribly wrong in the ocean.

Residents of Los Angeles should be aware that piles of garbage are washing down the Los Angeles River to Long Beach, and most of this trash ends up in the ocean itself.

“There is garbage almost equal to the size of Texas floating all around the Pacific Ocean, and almost all of the debris, is plastic,” said reporter Weiss. “Now there are many seabirds, such as the albatross, discovered dead with trash, mainly plastic, found in their stomachs.”

Part of the plastic pollution consists of billions of little pellets known as “nurdles” spilling everywhere from manufacturing companies, and ending up in the ocean.

State Assemblymember Paul Krekorian of Glendale has a bill, AB258, awaiting final approval from the governor which will require manufacturers to prevent the plastic pellets from spilling into the ocean. “The bill is now on Gov. Schwarzenegger’s desk,” said Krekorian.

When asked what an individual can do to help with this crisis, Weiss replied with his own personal actions; and said that he drives a less toxic car, tries not to eat big fish, and picks up after himself.

Weiss is also making the public aware of the issues existing in the oceans. As an individual, there are several groups, volunteer programs, and organizations, such as Heal The Bay, that people can join to help fight the existing problems in the oceans.

“A toilet and a refrigerator are something that you would not mistake in your own home,” Weiss said, referring to how we are treating our oceans like a refrigerator [as a place to keep fish to eat] and a toilet [as the receptacle in which waste is dropped].

To view the a 20- minute?video version of “Altered Oceans” visit www.latimes.com/oceans.