1,000 Miles Offshore, Plastic Garbage Patch Destroys Aquatic Life

Dumping lots of plastics offshore was never a good idea. Environmentalists have complained for years about the issue – and now we’re finally beginning to realize how right those concerns have been.

A group of scientists recently returned to the San Francisco Bay area following a three week expedition to an offshore plastic heap known as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch”. The Mercury News has more in a report published this morning by Paul Rogers:

Scientists who returned to the Bay Area this week after an expedition to the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” brought piles of plastic debris they pulled out of the ocean — soda bottles, cracked patio chairs, Styrofoam chunks, old toys, discarded fishing floats and tangled nets.

But what alarmed them most, they said Tuesday, was the nearly inconceivable amount of tiny, confettilike pieces of broken plastic. They took hundreds of water samples between the Farallon Islands near San Francisco and the notorious garbage patch 1,000 miles west of California, and every one had tiny bits of plastic floating in it. And the closer they sailed to the garbage patch, which some researchers have estimated to be twice the size of Texas, the more plastic pieces per gallon they found.

“Marine debris is the new man-made epidemic. It’s that serious,” said Andrea Neal, principal investigator on the Kaisei, a 151-foot research ship on the trip.

Neal, a Santa Barbara researcher who has a doctorate in molecular genetics and biochemistry, said crews on the three-week voyage discovered tiny jellyfish eating bits of the plastic debris. The jellyfish are, in turn, eaten by fish like salmon or tuna, which people eat.

The problems are certainly severe, and thanks to these trip by scientists, we’ll continue to learn more about hte issue.

For full coverage on this issue, please see Paul Rogers column online at the The Mercury News Website.

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