Sunday, 5 September 2010

Ocean Garbage Patch Not Growing—Where's "Missing" Plastic? - National Geographic

photo credit David M. Lawrence, SEA

Well that picture about sums it up.

At first it seems that the patch not growing would be good news.

"It's possible some of the trash is just too small for researchers to catalog, study leader [Kara Lavender] Law said: "Our net only captures pieces larger than [a third of a millimeter] in size, and it's certain that the plastic breaks down into pieces smaller than that.""

That, and the fact that marine animals have been mistaking the tiny plastic pieces for food. The triggerfish in the photo had 47 pieces of plastic in its stomach! This wasn't in the article, but I've heard stories more than once about seabirds scooping up mouthfuls of plastic mistaken for food. Their bellies become full with tiny plastic pieces, so they think they're full, but they actually starve to death. It's a very sad situation.

This garbage patch probably isn't the one you've heard of. This one is in the Atlantic - not the Pacific which has been getting much attention recently. The scary thing about the Atlantic garbage patch is that scientists can't find the edges.

"Meanwhile, even though the SEA expedition traveled a thousand miles (1,609 kilometers) east of Bermuda, "we still can't find the eastern edge" of the patch, Law said.
The Algalita mission traveled much farther east, all the way to the Azores islands off Portugal (map), the foundation's Eriksen said, and "we had plastics in our samples from Bermuda to the Azores."
Overall, the results tell "a depressing story, to be honest," SEA's Law added. "You're like, Great, [the patch] is not increasing! But I'm sure it is.""

Full article here (National Geographic)

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