Quantcast

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

Tim P. Whitby / 21st Century Fox / Getty Images

The beauty products we put on our skin can have important consequences for our health. Just this March, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warned that some Claire's cosmetics had tested positive for asbestos. But the FDA could only issue a warning, not a recall, because current law does not empower the agency to do so.

Michelle Pfeiffer wants to change that.

The actress and Environmental Working Group (EWG) board member was spotted on Capitol Hill Thursday lobbying lawmakers on behalf of a bill that would increase oversight of the cosmetics industry, The Washington Post reported.

Read More Show Less
A protest march against the Line 3 pipeline in St. Paul, Minnesota on May 18, 2018. Fibonacci Blue / CC BY 2.0

By Collin Rees

We know that people power can stop dangerous fossil fuel projects like the proposed Line 3 tar sands oil pipeline in Minnesota, because we've proved it over and over again — and recently we've had two more big wins.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Scientists released a study showing that a million species are at risk for extinction, but it was largely ignored by the corporate news media. Danny Perez Photography / Flickr / CC

By Julia Conley

Scientists at the United Nations' intergovernmental body focusing on biodiversity sounded alarms earlier this month with its report on the looming potential extinction of one million species — but few heard their calls, according to a German newspaper report.

Read More Show Less
DoneGood

By Cullen Schwarz

Ethical shopping is a somewhat new phenomenon. We're far more familiar with the "tried and tested" methods of doing good, like donating our money or time.

Read More Show Less
Pixabay

Summer is fast approaching, which means it's time to stock up on sunscreen to ward off the harmful effects of sun exposure. Not all sunscreens are created equally, however.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Mark Wallheiser / Getty Images

The climate crisis is a major concern for American voters with nearly 40 percent reporting the issue will help determine how they cast their ballots in the upcoming 2020 presidential election, according to a report compiled by the Yale Program on Climate Change Communication.

Of more than 1,000 registered voters surveyed on global warming, climate and energy policies, as well as personal and collective action, 38 percent said that a candidate's position on climate change is "very important" when it comes to determining who will win their vote. Overall, democratic candidates are under more pressure to provide green solutions as part of their campaign promises with 64 percent of Democrat voters saying they prioritize the issue compared with just 34 percent of Independents and 12 percent of Republicans.

Read More Show Less
Flooding in Winfield, Missouri this month. Jonathan Rehg / Getty Images

President Donald Trump has agreed to sign a $19.1 billion disaster relief bill that will help Americans still recovering from the flooding, hurricanes and wildfires that have devastated parts of the country in the past two years. Senate Republicans said they struck a deal with the president to approve the measure, despite the fact that it did not include the funding he wanted for the U.S.-Mexican border, CNN reported.

"The U.S. Senate has just approved a 19 Billion Dollar Disaster Relief Bill, with my total approval. Great!" the president tweeted Thursday.

Read More Show Less
Reed Hoffmann / Getty Images

Violent tornadoes tore through Missouri Wednesday night, killing three and causing "extensive damage" to the state's capital of Jefferson City, The New York Times reported.

"There was a lot of devastation throughout the state," Governor Mike Parson said at a Thursday morning press conference, as NPR reported. "We were very fortunate last night that we didn't have more injuries than what we had, and we didn't have more fatalities across the state. But three is too many."

Read More Show Less