NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - “Steve" the sea dragon on display at the Aquarium of the Americas sports a light from a boat, a pacifier and scuba flippers.
All of the pieces and parts were recovered from beaches, and carefully crafted into sculptures.
Artist Angela Hazeltine Pozzi and the organization she founded, Washed Ashore, have added nine new art pieces to the popular exhibit on display here since July.
“Plastics have entered all marine habitats and every level of the ocean food chain,” said Possi, the organization’s Artistic Director and Lead Artist.
The point is not lost on 11-year-old Dayona Terwilliger of Nashville, who visited the aquarium Friday.
“I won’t leave any stuff in the sea.“
The world’s oceans have become dumping grounds for plastics, which often travel through canals, rivers and other waterways.
Scientists estimate 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the sea, mistaken for food by creatures from tiny plankton to whales.
A 2016 study by the World Economic Forum estimated that unless the trends is reversed, plastic in oceans will outweigh fish by 2050.
“I think it’s sad that all this was found on a beach," said Heidi Rozga, who was visiting the aquarium from Pace, Florida. "But what she did with it is mind blowing. It’s beautiful.”
Pozzi’s mission began when she moved to the Pacific coast of Oregon following the death of her husband to a brain tumor.
“I was like, what am I going to do? Where am I going to go? How am I going to find my purpose in life?”
She found it after seeing, and stepping over, all the plastic along the beach.
“I didn’t want to see garbage," Pozzi said. "I was there to heal.”
Today, Washed Ashore has produced 70 different art pieces currently on display in four locations around the country, from material collected by 10,000 volunteers.
Most of the displays are larger than life, such as the 16 foot sea dragon, but one smaller, seemingly nondescript piece packs a powerful message.
“These are actually bite marks by fish,” said Pozzi, pointing to the small plastic parts that hang from the display.
Despite the sometimes gloomy outlook, she remains optimistic that the world, and policy makers, are awakening to the issue.
“Arts can reach your heart," Pozzi said. "They can reach people of all languages.”