Pacific Plastics

a short story about oceanic pollution for middle school students

Miguel always loved the ocean. Growing up in California, he spent every free minute at the beach swimming, surfing, and exploring tide pools. In school, Miguel excelled at science and decided to become a marine biologist. 

After earning his degree, Miguel got a research job aboard a ship sailing across the Pacific Ocean. His mission was to study plastic pollution accumulating in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. This region contained high concentrations of marine debris swirling around in ocean currents.

Each day, Miguel used nets to collect water samples. He carefully filtered the water to extract tiny plastic pieces called microplastics. These tiny plastics come from the breakdown of larger plastic objects like bottles and bags. Miguel also collected plastic debris floating on the surface. He documented each item and tracked its location using GPS. 

Over several weeks, Miguel collected thousands of plastic pieces. He found mostly single-use plastics like straws, bottles, and plastic bags. Miguel was sad to see the harmful effects of plastic pollution firsthand. Many animals had eaten or become entangled in the debris. 

One day, while sorting samples on deck, Miguel noticed a beautiful green sea turtle swimming nearby. To his horror, he saw plastic rings wrapped tightly around the turtle's shell and flippers. Miguel quickly jumped into the water and swam after the turtle. Though the turtle tried to swim away, Miguel caught up to it. Moving slowly and gently, he removed the restrictive plastic. The turtle watched Miguel cautiously until finally it was free. 

Seeing that turtle suffering from plastic pollution motivated Miguel even more. He hoped his research would increase awareness and lead to action to reduce plastic use. Miguel knew that plastic lasts a very long time in the ocean, taking hundreds of years to break down. 

When Miguel’s research trip ended, he returned home with notebooks filled with data and bags overflowing with plastic samples. Miguel and other scientists analyzed the types, sizes, and locations of all the plastic collected. The data helped them better understand plastic accumulation in the Pacific.

Miguel was proud that his work made a contribution to solving this environmental problem. He was especially happy he could help that one green sea turtle. Miguel knew there was still a lot of work to do, but he was determined to keep making a difference.

Educational resource reference: 

Tags: geocomic biology environmental ocean pollution microplastics turtle FK8