Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Help Support EcoWatch

New Garbage Patch Discovered in the South Pacific Gyre

Scientists from The 5 Gyres Institute have discovered the first evidence of a “garbage patch,” an accumulation zone of plastic pollution floating in the South Pacific subtropical gyre. The new study, published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin marks the first documentation of a defined oceanic garbage patch in the Southern Hemisphere, where little research on marine plastic pollution exists.

In March and April 2011, a team of scientists and interested citizens lead by 5 Gyres Institute Executive Director, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, conducted the first ever sampling of the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre for marine plastic pollution. The expedition began collecting samples of the ocean surface near Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile. Samples were collected every 50 nautical miles westward to Easter Island, then onward to Pitcairn Island, totaling 48 samples along a 2,424 nautical mile straight-line transect.

Eriksen selected the route based on an ocean current model developed by Nikolai Maximenko (University of Hawaii, Honolulu) that predicts accumulation zones for floating debris. The research team recorded increased density of plastic pollution with an average of 26,898 particles per square kilometer, and a high of 396,342 km/m2 in the center of the predicted accumulation zone. This confirms the existence of yet another oceanic "garbage patch."

"The 5 Gyres Institute was conceived to create baseline data in all the world's oceans, to determine whether plastic pollution is pervasive in all the major gyres of the world. Without a doubt, we have discovered a previously unknown garbage patch in the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre," said Dr. Eriksen.

As Eriksen suspected, at the inception of 5 Gyres, plastic pollution isn't just a North Pacific phenomenon but rather a global problem with global implications for fisheries, tourism, marine ecosystems and human health. In recent years, 5 Gyres has emerged as preeminent force for gathering marine plastic pollution data and taking that evidence from scientific publications to media, concerned citizens, policy makers and stakeholders. The 5 Gyres Institute is also working on scientific papers documenting the abundance of marine plastic pollution in all five subtropical gyres, and results of the recent expedition and discovery of micro-plastics in the Great Lakes.

"To create a solution to an ecosystem-wide problem we must understand the scope and magnitude of that problem. It's our (5 Gyres) mission to be on the frontlines of that understanding, and to continue monitoring the most remote regions of the world's oceans," continued Dr. Eriksen.

Part of the 5 Gyres Institute mission is to pair stakeholders and concerned citizens with scientists on expeditions in order to communicate their findings beyond the traditional academic circles. This expedition was conducted aboard the Sea Dragon, a 72ft sailing vessel equipped with eight available seats for guest crew, which included other scientists, educators, journalists and filmmakers. By empowering and educating concerned stakeholders at sea, armed with firsthand, empirical knowledge of the issue, the problems posed by marine plastic pollution will be elevated to a global discourse about ending the flow of plastics into the world's oceans.

"Creating a balance between peer reviewed science, education and advocacy is a delicate endeavor, but it's our goal to see common sense policy based on objective, scientific fact, and to us, if our advocacy efforts are based on hard evidence, there exists no conflict of interest. Facts are facts," said Anna Cummins 5 Gyres co-founder.   

In 2013 the 5 Gyres Institute will launch three expeditions to the North Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Great Lakes. These continued expeditions will provide additional insight to the scope of the problem worldwide, in the South Pacific and beyond.

Visit EcoWatch’s BIODIVERSITY and WATER pages for more related news on this topic.

 

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A never-before-documented frog species has been discovered in the Peruvian highlands and named Phrynopus remotum. Germán Chávez

By Angela Nicoletti

The eastern slopes of the Andes Mountains in central Perú are among the most remote places in the world.

Read More Show Less
Left: Lemurs in Madagascar on March 30, 2017. Mathias Appel / Flickr. Right: A North Atlantic right whale mother and calf. National Marine Fisheries Service

A new analysis by scientists at the Swiss-based International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) found that lemurs and the North Atlantic right whale are on the brink of extinction.

Read More Show Less
Nobody knows exactly how much vitamin D a person actually needs. However, vitamin D is becoming increasingly popular. Colin Dunn / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Julia Vergin

It is undisputed that vitamin D plays a role everywhere in the body and performs important functions. A severe vitamin D deficiency, which can occur at a level of 12 nanograms per milliliter of blood or less, leads to severe and painful bone deformations known as rickets in infants and young children and osteomalacia in adults. Unfortunately, this is where the scientific consensus ends.

Read More Show Less
Data from a scientist measuring macroalgal communities in rocky shores in the Argentinean Patagonia would be added to the new system. Patricia Miloslavich / University of Delaware

Ocean scientists have been busy creating a global network to understand and measure changes in ocean life. The system will aggregate data from the oceans, climate and human activity to better inform sustainable marine management practices.

EcoWatch sat down with some of the scientists spearheading the collaboration to learn more.

Read More Show Less
Authors of a new study warned Thursday that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nearing a level not seen in 15 million years. Dawn Ellner / Flickr / CC by 2.0

By Jessica Corbett

As a United Nations agency released new climate projections showing that the world is on track in the next five years to hit or surpass a key limit of the Paris agreement, authors of a new study warned Thursday that increasing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is nearing a level not seen in 15 million years.

Read More Show Less
Dr. Jane Goodall, the world-renowned conservationist, desperately wants the world to pay attention to what she sees as the greatest threat to humanity's existence. Craig Barritt / Getty Images for TIME

By Jeff Berardelli

While COVID-19 and protests for racial justice command the world's collective attention, ecological destruction, species extinction and climate change continue unabated. While the world's been focused on other crises, an alarming study was released warning that species extinction is now progressing so fast that the consequences of "biological annihilation" may soon be "unimaginable."

Read More Show Less

Trending

A Starbucks employee in a mask and face shield at Ronald Reagan Washington National Airport in Arlington, Virginia, on May 12, 2020. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS / AFP via Getty Images

Anyone entering a U.S. Starbucks from July 15 will have to wear a face mask, the company announced Thursday.

Read More Show Less