Where Does It All Go? The ‘Pacific Garbage Patch’

LA River 2
The Algalita Marine Research Foundation is on a 2 month voyage across the Pacific to study the concentration of plastics in the North Subtropical Gyre.  This area has been known as the “Pacific Garbage Patch” due to the convergence of several ocean currents that drag garbage from all corners of the globe.  Not only is there large floating debris (bottle caps, toothbrushes, plastic bags, etc.) but half of the debris found is small chips of unidentifiable plastics.

Charles Moore, who discovered this garbage patch, found plastic flakes floating 10 meters below the surface like “snowflakes or fish food”.  The more disturbing fact is the weight of plastic far outweighed the plankton in the water.  Consequently there are increasing accumulations of plastic on beaches in the Pacific.  UNEP estimates that plastic is killing a million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals and turtles every year.

Scientific American magazine are blogging the voyage (link ), as are the Algalita foundation (link), which makes for a fascinating yet depressing read:

Chrisitana and Jeff each reeled in a mahi mahi today, one right after the other. The fish served a double purpose, science and sustenance. Before we filleted the fish, Christiana took muscle and liver samples of each of the fish and looked in their stomachs. Fish number 3, the mahi mahi that Jeff reeled in, contained what the Captain confirmed via microscope as none other than a piece of plastic film. This now makes 8 species of fish in which we have identified with plastic in their gut.


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