Name: Pearl Gottschalk
Current City: Vancouver, Canada
5 Gyres Involvement: 2015 Expedition +Ambassador
Pearl traveled to Baja Mexico earlier this year, where she is working with locals to plan the first ever Plastics Youth Summit in Baja. Below, Pearl reflects on the her Expedition to North Atlantic Gyre and how this impacts where she focuses her energy:
My time on the SEA Change Expedition from the Bahamas to Bermuda, Leg 2, essentially changed my life. Everything I learned and experienced at the 2015 Bahamas Youth Summit and on the voyage got my mind exploding with ideas of how we can implement these same ideas in my beloved piece of ocean paradise, the Sea of Cortez, in Baja Mexico. Thank you 5 Gyres!
I returned to Baja for four months in early 2016 to focus on building a coastal ecosystem educational program in collaboration with local NGO’s for a threatened coastline in the Bay of La Paz which focused on ocean pollution threats, dune conservation, marine mammal mortality and beach clean-ups. My base was a beautiful ecological center called La Duna, 40 minutes north of La Paz. This coastline has constant marine mammal mortality that has never been monitored, as evidenced by my near daily sorrow of pulling out various animals caught in fishing line.
Together with the local conservation group, Consciencia we are organizing the first Baja Youth Plastics Summit for 2017 modeled after the Bahamas Youth Plastic Summit that I was able to attend in 2015 with 5 Gyres. We are also creating the first program for micro plastic trawling program for local students and the first ever Beach Clean up and Plastics Awareness Campaign for the San Juan de la Costa area with a focus on the impact on marine mammal mortality.
The plastics issue isn’t hot on anyone’s radar in the Sea of Cortez except for two groups: Sea Shepherd and Whale Shark Mexico. Sea Shepard used a mantra trawl aboard their boat to research microplastics in the waters and study blubber samples in fin whales as an indicator species of microplastic contamination. The Sea of Cortez has comparatively low microplastic counts, roughly 0.14 microplastic items per m3 were found in recent surveys.
Whale Shark Mexico has been partnering with international researchers to study microplastic contamination in the blubber of whale sharks and also did a plastics awareness event with local kids and used 1500 recycled plastic bottles to make this art project of a whale shark in La Paz.
See this amazing article to learn more about microplastic contamination in fin whales in the Sea of Cortez and the Mediterranean sea.