Fifteen years after Captain Charles Moore discovered "the Great Pacific Garbage Patch", he’s at it again with some surprising new results.
His expedition team returned to, "the most remote part of our world," as Moore describes it, in the Pacific Ocean between California and Hawaii, for a follow up on the status and impact of the garbage patch. The team, sponsored by the Algalita Marine Research Institute, reportedly found that there may be even more ocean surface trash than initially predicted.
In 2014, a study found the ocean’s plastic to be mysteriously disappearing, and reported much less ocean plastic debris than initially expected. The estimate was based on global rates of plastic production and disposal, and relied solely on trawling for trash with nets.
However Moore’s current trip employs new technologies that allow for more accurate data collection. Similar to other studies, Moore did a 7.2 kilometer trawl of the ocean, but added drone technology to monitor the extent of trash from above.
Moore says that the team, "found 100 times more plastic by weight with the drone, than we estimated from the trawl." The team also assessed new marine impacts of this plastic debris, and found that 35 percent of their sampled fish had swallowed amounts of plastic.
In addition to floating debris, the crew found more permanent forms of ocean pollution. Moore reports finding a "trash island" with "beaches, rocky coastline, and underwater mountains" and reefs made of buoys, ropes, and plastic debris. Moore’s speculations point to the 2011 tsunami in Japan as the source of this massive amount of pollution being swept to sea. He says, "It’s showing signs of permanence…There will be a new floating world in our oceans if we don’t stop polluting with plastics."
Learn what CAW is doing to stop plastic pollution:
SB 270: Ban on single-use plastic bags
AB 1699: Ban on plastic microbeads in personal care products
Hear more from Captain Moore, and other researchers at the Cabrillo Marine Aquariums "Great Pacific Garbage Patch" event on July 20, 2014.
Photo Credit: Algalita Marine Research Insitute