Second in our series of eyewitness reports from Olga Mironenko, somewhere in the Pacific Ocean. See the first one here.
A couple of days ago, we came across a thick rope that had been adrift in the ocean for a while, and pulled it up on board. A nice bonus: While we were at it, a whale started breaching right off the ship and slapping its pectoral fins as if in a thanks.
When we pulled the rope on board, we found that it had become home for a whole community of gooseneck barnacles as well as crabs of all ages, from tiny transparent babies to well-grown, sturdy reddish adults. Our team fished out all the crabs, much as they tried to run for it and escape from the big two-legged creatures in colored hard hats. And they did escape, because we released them back into the water. The barnacles, being attached to the rope, were less lucky and, to be honest, I feel really sorry for them.
This rope opened up a new dimension of the marine litter issue for me. The thing is, by interfering in the global ecosystem – dumping garbage in it, in this case – we create whole new subsystems with their complex interactions, and are eventually responsible for them. Think of it this way: If someone creates a universe, are they responsible for its future and taking care of its inhabitants? That seems only fair, doesn’t it?
Because the barnacles, which were left on the rope to die as the only available option, are not to blame. It’s certainly not their fault that at the larva stage they did what they naturally do, find a home, which turned out to be man-made and a potential threat to other animals to boot (and eventually removed from the ocean by us for this reason).
So what that rope and those barnacles taught me was: We, as humanity, are not only responsible for the pollution we create and the lives this pollution directly takes, but also for such kinds of indirect but just as serious a damage that our interference causes.