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Emily Penn – Ocean Advocate and Avid Sailor
The first time Emily Penn realised the magnitude of our plastic pollution problem was when she took part in an international sailing expedition a decade ago. The young sailor saw piles of plastic waste on remote Pacific islands and pieces of plastic debris floating in the ocean thousands of kilometres from land. Before seeing these massive changes to the environment, Penn had no idea this was happening.
Our Oceans Are Littered With Plastic
Ten years later, aged 32, Penn is known for the many sailing expeditions she led conducting scientific research around the world. Penn’s studies include investigating ocean acidification and water toxicity caused by plastic. According to the United Nations, around 13 million tons of plastic finds its way into the marine ecosystem every year where it causes great damage to the oceans and eventually infiltrates the international food chain. Plastic has been found in the depths of the Pacific Ocean, the bellies of millions of fish and in human waste. Studies have even shown that micro-plastics can be passed to unborn babies by their mothers.
Sailing To Create Awareness
Penn believes that something should be done about this manmade disaster. She co-founded eXXpedition, a female-only sailing crew on a mission to tackle plastic pollution. So far, eXXpedition and Penn have taken part in 11 voyages that involve research projects and community outreach programs. They have sailed around South America, the Caribbean and have visited the North Pacific Gyre, a massive ‘island’ of marine debris also known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. As they studied the gyre, Penn and her team realised that it is breaking down into smaller pieces, called micro-plastics and that this is what is eventually polluting our food chain.
Almost Time For Another eXXpedition
The next eXXpedition is due to start in October 2019 and will take the women around the world for two years. They plan to visit other gyres in the Atlantic, Pacific, Indian and Arctic oceans and hope that their research will help the world become more aware and better equipped to deal with the problem.