Vote Plankton!
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Vote Plankton!

'Vote Plankton!' is the latest poster by the environmental eco-spirit known as Toothfish.

The poster was released in New Zealand on November 16th - 2011 - to coincide with the general election to be held later that month.

There will only be  200 copies of this poster rather than the usual seven hundred. 

The  first fifty A1 copies (on heavy weight satin paper) have been numbered and signed by Toothfish and these are available for sale in THE STORE on this site or by contacting Toothfish directly.  These will not be available for long.

The majority of the rest of the posters are being distributed in Wellington, Auckland, Dunedin and Christchurch with the support of New Zealand's most excellent Phantom Billstickers! Some are  also be placed on custom made election hoardings in Wellington(see below).

The poster features realistic and stylized versions of a variety of plankton including phytoplankton - such as diatoms and dinoflagellates -  zooplankton such as copepods, crab and lobster larvae - salps and jellyfish and fish eggs and fish larvae.

If you are considering voting plankton there is more information about the party and their political platform below.


Why  vote Plankton?

Who are they? What are they? What do they stand for?


Plankton are a microscopic organisms which live in both salt and fresh water.

Plankton are a cohesive coalition of different groups with a wide range of different concerns and beliefs.

Plankton move with natural currents rather than struggling against them.

Plankton has no money, banks,  stock markets or crime. It is more concerned with staying alive and maximizing its immediate genetic potential.

Plankton have never gone to war – despite their longstanding differences with some larger organisms such as whales.

Plankton utilize sustainable non-polluting energy systems to drive growth and production.

Plankton are the bedrock of all ocean food-chains. Without them there would be no shrimp – sushi – or fish and chips.

Dead plankton provide the ocean with its fertilizer and fossilized plankton (ie Oil) provide human beings with the gasses and petro-chemicals  they burn for energy.

Photosynthetic  Plankton absorb much of the atmospheric carbon produced from these processes and stop the world from overheating.

Plankton also produce most of the oxygen we breathe.

Plankton –   truly sublime!



The Greek work – plankton – means wandering or roaming – and by definition plankton are those living things which drift about at the mercy of ocean currents. 

Many types of Plankton can swim but they are not big or strong enough to move against the current.

Most of the plankton is so small you need a microscope to see it but some plankton – such as jellyfish are much larger.


There are three main types -  

  • Bacterioplankton – minute bacteria and blue-green algaes – the Cynobacteria (Below Left)
  • Phytoplankton –free floating microscopic plant life(Below Centre)
  • Zooplankton – free-floating animal life – some of which spends their whole lives as plankton(the holoplankton)(Below Right) and some of which only lives in the plankton for only part of its life, e.g. fish,crab and shellfish eggs and larvae (the meroplankton)




Photosynthetic Plankton are tiny – some less than one thousandth of a millimeter across – you could fit a city full on the head of a pin!

On land all plants utilize sunlight, carbon dioxide, water and nutrients to grow in a process called photosynthesis. The animals which eat them range from tiny insects up to elephants. In the open ocean the plants are mostly microscopic single celled organisms –  bacterioplankton and phytoplankton. The animals which eat them range from tiny zooplankton up to giant Blue Whales!

 The phytoplankton all contain colored pigments that transform the energy of the sun into the basic chemicals of life using the process of photosynthesis in the same way that land plants do. Although they are microscopically small they can be present in such large numbers that they change the colour of the ocean. The Red Sea is named after a local cynobacteria which can so plentiful that they literally turn the ocean red. 

Bacterioplankton are not all photosynthetic but  there are many sorts of planktonic bacteria which are and in some places these species are so numerous they account for up to 80% of the region's oceanic production.  Photosynthetic Planktonic bacteria absorb more carbon dioxide than both the other types of  phytoplankton combined.

Whereas land plants are made up of different cells which perform different functions phytoplankton just has the one highly organized cell. Some are simple shapes like little pill boxes but others are much more ornate. Some exist singly – others get round in groups. 




Photosynthetic Plankton is not like a lawn over the surface of the sea. There are thick clumps in some places and hardly any in others. The distribution of plankton depend on two main things.


  • the amount of daylight -  if there lots of sun phytoplankton can reproduce like crazy . In the summer in the Arctic and the Antarctic there is 24 hour daylight producing huge blooms of plankton which support a thriving food chain.


  • the amount of nutrients – particularly phosphates.  When  plankton dies it sinks to the ocean bottom and slowly breaks down. The nutrients released are carried all over the ocean by deep-water currents. The places where these currents full of nutrients come to the surface, e.g. the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, support thriving summer food chains and fisheries.


  • If water currents do not bring up nutrients from deeper waters the effect on plankton and the animals that feed on them can be disastrous. The El Nino effect that sometimes occurs in the South Pacific can cause the photosynthetic plankton on the surface to be cut off from the nutrient rich water below. This resulting loss of productivity often has drastic effect on local food chains and fishing industries. Some scientists are concerned that recent changes in weather patterns (caused by an increase in atmospheric greenhouse gases) will alter cycles of regular nutrient  upwelling and affect fish catches worldwide.


 The purple areas indicate photosynthetic plankton distribution when the satellite photo was taken.



Animals and humans both eat a lot of sea food!

If the ocean food chains collapse many coastal animal and human communities will starve.


Animals and humans both need to breathe oxygen.

The Photosynthetic Plankton  absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. The carbon molecules are retained and used as building materials for growth. The oxygen is released back into the atmosphere. Without plankton we'd all be gasping for breath!


As we’ve just said some of  plankton’s natural processes absorb carbon dioxide and build it into their bodies. When they die this Carbon is locked up inside them until it is slowly released when they break down. This can happen very slowly (during the natural processes of decay and fossilization) or very quickly (when humans burn carbon compounds such as coal or oil for fuel.) Without plankton climate change and global warming would be happening even faster than it is already!


For millions of years plankton has been blooming and dying dropping to the bottom of the ocean like leaves on the forest floor. 

Some of this dead plankton  falls to the bottom of the ocean where it becomes  buried and squashed. Over millions of years pressure and heat slowly ‘cook’ the plankton turning it into liquid hydrocarbons such as  oil! Some of the petrol you are burning in your car today was floating around in the ocean 500 million years ago.

The trouble is that when we burn these fossil fuels we release atmospheric carbon and produce carbon dioxide. We already know that increasing levels of  atmospheric carbon are causing the earth to warm and the ice-caps to melt. Some of the planets’ low lying land will be soon be covered in water. Weather and ocean currents will  become erratic - the  photosynthetic plankton  will cease to bloom – the earth will warm even faster – and the ocean food chains will break down. Eventually we’ll  have trouble finding enough oxygen to breathe!

Humans needs to stop mining and burning fossil fuels now! We need to develop  new sources of sustainable energy while we still have the resources to do so! Vote for a political party that is looking to the future rather than trying to cling to the past!

Hail the Diatom! Bless the Dinoflagellate! Vote Plankton!


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