Learn about microplastics with Cooper the Copepod

Cooper the Copepod

Photo by: Uwe Kils. Wikimedia Commons

Learn about Microplastics with Cooper the Copepod

 

Hi! I’m Cooper the Copepod. What is a Copepod? Well, I am a tiny planktonic animal. Plankton are the microscopic plants and animals that make up the base of the food chain in the ocean. I have a teardrop-shaped body and long curved antennae.

I am the strongest and fastest jumper on the planet, even faster than jumping land animals like hares and grasshoppers! But while I am only 1-2 mm long, I reach speeds of 2-4 mph (3-6.4 km/hr) while jumping. For a human that is like a 5 foot 8 inch person going an amazing 3,800 mph while jumping! See the details here.

I’m here today not to impress you with my jumping ability, but to talk to you about garbage in our oceans, specifically plastics. Plastic pollution in our oceans is a huge deal. 8 million tons of plastic are dumped into our oceans annually. There are many garbage patches in our oceans. They are made up of plastic waste such as soda bottles, bottlecaps, plastic grocery bags, and discarded plastic fishing nets.

Plastic at Coco beach

Plastic rubbish at Coco Beach, Goa, India. These bottles will break down and contribute to the generation of microplastic pollution. Source: Wikimedia Commons

But more important and insidious are the microplastics. These plastic particles are less than 5 mm in size. They include microbeads from beauty and bath products (like face and body scrubs), microfibers from machine washing synthetic clothing (polyester and nylon microfibers are not caught by lint traps nor at the sewage treatment plants) and plastic fragments worn down from larger plastic products.

To tiny critters like me, the microplastic looks good enough to eat, and unfortunately we do that. Animals larger than us such as fish eat us, and so on up the food chain until we get to predators such as sharks, tuna, sea turtles and humans. Did you know you contain several pounds of plastic in your body?

Up to 8 trillion microbeads enter the waterways of the United States everyday. But fortunately in December 2015 the United States outlawed the use of microbeads in health and beauty products by the year 2017!

There is still the matter of other plastics in the ocean—the best way to take care of them is to reduce the amount now entering our oceans. For the sake of me and my friends, please recycle plastics! Also take part in beach cleanups or even just clean up in your neighborhood—as Gill said in Finding Nemo, “All drains lead to the ocean, kid.”

 

This post has been brought to you by Cherilyn Jose and her blog, “Ocean of Hope: Marine Animals Voice Their Wishes”

About the Author

Cherilyn Jose

Cherilyn is a marine biologist. She runs the blog,"Ocean of Hope" She is writing a series of children's books about ocean creatures told from their point-of-view.

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