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More plastic than fish in our oceans?

Plastic floating in the ocean. Photo by Annie Crawley

EDMONDS, Wash. (KOMO) -- Scuba diving opens up a whole new world to explore our oceans, but if you don't dive, you can still experience the underwater world through the lens of Annie Crawley.

Crawley's been running a beach camp out of Edmonds for years, and now after a life-changing experience aboard a research vessel and a new report from The Ellen MacArthur Foundation, she's really upped her commitment and call to action.

"It's unimaginable. By the year 2050 they're predicting that there's going to be more plastic in the ocean than fish (by weight). When I heard that a few weeks ago it solidified my mission," said Crawley. That new report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation also stated that "the entire plastics industry will consume 20 percent of total oil production, and 15 percent of the annual carbon budget."

So now Crawley is taking her mission to reverse this trend to students, spoke to students at Pathfinder K-8, the 14th school in her goal of talking to 100 schools.

"I'm hoping to inspire the students and share with them how much I love the ocean, and hope that they pick up on that love for the ocean, because we protect what we love," said Crawley.

Crawley joined a science expedition to the North Pacific gyre, known as the garbage patch.

She documented the work done on board by young scientists studying the gyre. For 22 days she said they never saw land. They worked in shifts, 24 hours a day, putting nets in the water and pulling up whatever was there. Every single time, she said they pulled up plastic.

"I think that in the media it's portrayed that there's this island twice the size of Texas out in the middle of the ocean, and it's really not an island like you would imagine. What it is, is pieces of plastic, like plastic soup in the ocean. And so when I started thinking about it, it was more alarming than I could ever imagine."

So alarmed in fact, that Crawley is now on a crusade to keep plastics out of the ocean. The experience led to a book called "Plastic Ahoy! Investigating the Great Pacific Garbage Patch," and now, her mission to educate young people and really call them to action.

During her school talks, she shows the kids stunning images of underwater life: sea turtles, sharks, manta rays, schools of fish.

Then she shows them all of the plastics that they found on their expedition and the kids gasp.

She explains to them what single use plastics are and how they can take action to prevent these things from going into the ocean.

"Ten percent of every fish we collected on the expedition had plastic in its belly," explained Crawley.

The kids listened and learned.

"I knew that there was a lot of plastic in the ocean, but half the stuff that she said I didn't know, like the I didn't know that plastic was made out of oil," said Elyana Avila, a 5th grader at Pathfinder K-8.

Crawley shows the kids sandwich bags, water bottles and drinking straws, and asks them to take a 30 day challenge to cut one out of their daily lives and/or reuse them.

"500 million straws get used every single day in America. Can you skip a straw?" asked Crawley of the students.

"Sometimes I use plastic bags in my lunch, I try to reuse them, but I'm going to try to reuse more now," said Willa Colbyoosterwyk, a 5th grader at Pathfinder K-8.

Willa and Elyana both said they're taking the challenge.

Crawley wants you to join them.

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