[ti:Midway Atoll Covered with Plastic, Dead Birds]
[00:00.04]From above, Midway Atoll appears out of the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean
[00:06.72]as a small oasis of land. Its white sandy beaches look full of life.
[00:15.76]Yet on the ground, the coastline looks very different.
[00:20.08]There is plastic, pollution and death.
[00:25.68]With almost no predators, Midway Atoll is a safe place for many kinds of seabirds.
[00:33.64]It is home to the largest colony of albatross in the world.
[00:40.00]But Midway is also at the center of what researchers call the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,
[00:47.96]a huge area of floating plastic collected by oceanic currents.
[00:55.52]A recent study found that the area is collecting debris at a faster rate than scientists had thought.
[01:04.72]Midway is covered with skeletons of birds
[01:08.31]that have brightly colored plastic sticking out from their stomachs.
[01:13.44]Bottle tops, toothbrushes and cigarette lighters sit in the centers of the remains.
[01:22.08]Sharp plastic pieces can also cut through birds' organs.
[01:28.28]"There isn't a bird that doesn't have some (plastic)," says Athline Clark
[01:33.88]of the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
[01:40.56]She oversees the Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument,
[01:46.96]the world's largest marine protection area.
[01:51.04]It protects much of the Hawaiian archipelago, of which Midway is a part.
[01:58.56]"Papahanaumokuakea is both a biologically rich and culturally sacred place," Clark said.
[02:06.04]"The Hawaiians call it a place of abundance."
[02:10.68]Ocean currents now bring an abundance of plastic and other waste materials
[02:16.51]from all around the Pacific Rim to the area.
[02:20.40]The trash includes both small particles of plastic and objects like huge fishing nets.
[02:28.28]These capture plants, animals and other debris while moving across weak coral reefs.
[02:37.08]Clark said scientists estimate about 26,000 kilograms of debris
[02:43.10]washes up on this part of the island group each year.
[02:48.60]U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist Kelly Goodale lives and works on Midway.
[02:55.60]She says the plastic that washes up there each year is just part of the problem.
[03:03.00]"Not only are our beaches getting it,
[03:05.74]but also our albatross will bring it and feed it to their chicks," Goodale said.
[03:12.36]Albatross spend much of their lives at sea feeding.
[03:16.78]The birds fly thousands of kilometers across the oceans
[03:20.92]before returning to Midway each year to lay eggs and raise their young.
[03:27.44]"We estimate about 5 tons (4.5 metric tons) of plastic being brought to Midway every year
[03:33.32]just by adult albatross feeding it to their chicks," Goodale said.
[03:39.04]It is not just seabirds that are harmed by ocean plastic.
[03:43.96]Endangered Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles can die while trapped in plastic netting.
[03:52.36]Sharks and other predators eat smaller fish that feed on small plastic particles.
[04:00.24]It is important to understand the relationship between the ocean, marine life and humans, Clark said.
[04:07.85]She shared a Native Hawaiian expression: "Ma o ke kai pili ai kakou."
[04:14.42]It means, "The ocean connects us all."
[04:17.74]I'm Ashley Thompson. 更多聽力請訪問51VOA.COM