As Mark Twain quipped, it’s not what you don’t know that gets you into trouble, it’s what you know that just ain’t so. A claim made at the recent sea lion exhibition in Spokane is a case in point. Organizer Jenifer Zeligs claimed that garbage in the Pacific Ocean “is twice the size of Texas and the floating trash is 9 feet deep.” This claim has been repeatedly discredited.
Oceanographer Angel White from Oregon State University released a study noting “the highest concentrations ever reported by scientists produces a patch that is a small fraction of the state of Texas, not twice the size.” Frustrated by such claims, she added, “this kind of exaggeration undermines the credibility of scientists.”
NOAA also addressed the issue, noting “no scientifically sound estimates exist for the size or mass of these garbage patches.”
There are real problems facing marine mammals. Abandoned fishing nets ensnare marine mammals, killing thousands every year. It is a real problem we need to address.
Rather than using phony claims to scare children, however, we should be teaching them to follow good science so we can focus on efforts that will truly save the lives of these wonderful animals.
Todd Myers, Environmental director, Washington Policy Center