News Home Video Gallery Newsletters Cruising Int Photo Gallery

 

Sail-World.com : What IS a 'Great Ocean Garbage Patch'? - Gyre science updated

What IS a 'Great Ocean Garbage Patch'? - Gyre science updated

'Many sailors report first hand on the garbage in the ocean, but confusion remains'    .

Sailors for the Sea, a nonprofit organization that educates and engages the boating community in the worldwide protection of the oceans, has written a lot about plastics in the ocean - so-called 'islands of trash' float, trapping fish, choking birds, and growing larger with the passage of time. However, confusion remains, so here is an update from the Sea Education Association (SEA):

Despite widespread concurrence on the subject the confusion remains due to the fact that these gyres are not actually floating mats of garbage the size of entire states, an image fostered by some of the earlier, more publicized reports.

They are, rather, concentrations of surface and sub-surface floating debris at the convergence of ocean currents. But how much plastic is really there? Conflicting reports and opinions have made it difficult to get a secure handle on the magnitude of the problem.

Every year SEA sails the Atlantic, Pacific and Caribbean with upwards of 25 college students and 10 professional crew aboard the Corwith Cramer and the Robert C. Seamans. SEA Semester students combine an interdisciplinary academic program of oceanography, history, literature, marine policy and nautical science with a six week open ocean voyage.

For forty years and one million miles sailed, SEA has been the only program in the world to teach college students about the ocean in this way. From 1986 to 2008, in the Atlantic Ocean, over 4,887 individuals have participated in this study of ocean-bound plastics, collecting and cataloguing over 64,000 individuals pieces of plastic, most only millimeters in size. Through these efforts, SEA has amassed an 'unrivaled dataset' that helps describe the extent of this pollution, and can teach us about the fate of plastics in the ocean.

North Pacific Gyre -  .. .  


So what did SEA find?

Over those 22 years, SEA conducted 6,136 surface plankton net tows on annually repeated cruise tracks throughout the North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea. Sixty-two percent of all plankton tows contained some amount of plastic, with the highest in a single 30-minute tow being 1069 individual pieces. To scale, that equals 580,000 pieces per square kilometer (about 360,000 per square mile). That sounds like a LOT of plastic, but many of these pieces are less than a millimeter thick. While it makes for a less thrilling visual, it does make for a more dire outlook for the ocean and its fauna. The data reported by SEA in Science only accounts for floating surface debris. It does not account for plastic that has sunk below e surface or to the sea floor, or been ingested by fish, mammals or birds. Over 22 years, that could be quite a lot of plastic.

To get a sense of how much plastic could be in the ocean far below the surface, where SEA's plankton nets could not get to them, try this exercise:

Find a plastic bottle (Poland Spring, Gatorade, etc.). Remove the cap, fill the bottle to the brim with water, and submerge in a tub or a bucket (make sure to get all the bubbles out). Does it sink or float? Now submerge the cap. Sink or float? If you were using a Poland Spring bottle, or another brand with a 1 recycling number stamped on the bottom, it should have sunk (this is one of the most dense plastics). The cap (probably made of less dense HDPE #2) should have floated. Now think about this: Every year between 30 and 50 BILLION plastic bottles are used in the U.S. alone. Of these, only about 12% get recycled. We don't know exactly how many of reach the ocean, but if you've ever seen a bottle lying on the ground and didn't pick it up, chances are, it's in the ocean now. 80% of all marine debris is thought to originate on land.

Gyre North Atlantic -  .. .  
But back to the Atlantic.

Compiling the data, SEA discovered that plastic does indeed accumulate in the North Atlantic Gyre (see image). Not surprisingly, the highest densities of plastic they collected are concentrated between 22 and 38 degrees latitude in an area also known as the Sargasso Sea (or the Bermuda Triangle).

Though this data set displays no significant increase in plastic accumulation between 1986 and 2008, it does show persistent high concentrations of plastic. During this time period globally, there is a very significant increase in the production and discarding of plastic; however data does not account, as we mentioned previously, for sinking, ingested plastics or plastic fragments smaller than 1/3 mm, the mesh size of the plankton net. Readers should also remember that these gyres are not firmly constrained sites, and that currents carry water and debris constantly throughout the interconnected ocean.

The ultimate message here is that plastic, once created, doesn't go away and a lot of it ends up in the ocean, swirling around for eternity, confusing fish and tainting our food supply.

So what can you do?

1. Reduce - Use less plastic! Give up straws, single-use bottles and disposable forks.
2. Reuse - Used some plastic? Save it, use it again!
3. Recycle - If your plastic is used up, make sure to recycle it properly. Find out if your town has single-stream or separated recycling and only recycle those items your local plant can handle.
4. Read more - Read the full SEA article in Science
5. Check out the more recent data collected in the Atlantic
6. Learn more about SEA and how you can support their work www.sea.edu
7. Enroll in a semester at sea and help SEA continue their data collection, and see how they do collect data in the video below:




by Sailors for the Sea

  

Click on the FB Like link to post this story to your FB wall

http://www.sail-world.com/index.cfm?nid=84830

12:06 AM Fri 17 Jun 2011 GMT






Click here for printer friendly version
Click here to send us feedback or comments about this story.

Click for further information on
Environment and the ocean

Related News Stories:

27 Nov 2013  World Oceans Day appeals for funds
16 Nov 2013  Gigantic iceberg sails north from the Antarctic
09 Nov 2013  Sailing and swimming with manatees - Oceans Watch Essay
01 Nov 2013  OceansWatch: cruising sailors give something back in the South Pacific
23 Oct 2013  'The Ocean is Broken' - without fish, there can be no birds
13 Oct 2013  PlanetSolar reaches Paris after successful ocean study
02 Oct 2013  Monaco Yacht Show goes Green
07 Sep 2013  Great Pacific Garbage Patch - the real story
03 Sep 2013  World's largest solar yacht drops anchor after marine science quest
25 Aug 2013  Boat owners: cover vessels to deter seagulls
MORE STORIES ...

Cruising USA



'Sailing Adventures in Paradise' by Vincent Bossley by Noonsite Reviewer/Sail-World,










Springtime Greening: Boaters Tips for Earth Day by BoatUS Foundation/Sail-World Cruising,








How sailors really do have a voice in the future of our oceans by Sandra Whitehouse, Sailors for the Sea,


Message-in-a-bottle record - 102 years by AFP/Sail-World Cruising,








Canadian solo sailor rescued north of Auckland by Sail-World Cruising round-up,




















Free online fuel spill course - how much do you know? by BoatUS Foundation/Sail-World Cruising,












Life-shattering event sends 'rookie' couple sailing the world by Asia News Network/Sail-World Cruising,




Sail Norway and Russia this summer - your own boat, or charter
Sunshine4kids' 'Fleet of Hope' sets off again
3,200-year-old boat found in Croatian waters
Product of the Week: the LineGrabber
Mediterranean Mooring - How to moor stern-to to a dock or quay
Canadian storm bomb threat - sailors advised: get off the water!
Sailing family condemmed for taking 3-year-old on circumnavigation
New contract-free plan for satellite communicator on your smart phone
Yacht of the Week: The Dashew creation: no sails, but eco-friendly
No laughing! Sailing mistakes I don't want to make
Destination: From Moscow Sea to the White Sea
Land sailors of India on adventure across the Rann
A Paint App to (almost) replace your marine store assistant
Volunteer Canadian rescue team homeless - any offers?
Hilary Lister and Nashwa Al Kindi set a new trans-ocean record
How to anchor and 'never utter a word'
Non-pyrotechnic flares for my boat - Can I or can't I?
Health benefits of sailing
Cruising in the Maldives - some nuts and bolts
ISAF Guide to Offshore Personal Safety for Racing and Cruising
Halyard Tension - a video   
Winchrite - for lazy days or extra muscle-power   
Researcher examines 'current leaks' that may change the way you sail   
Paris off to attempt to circumnavigate the world again   
Need a tow from that helicopter? - watch the video and don't laugh   
Certain oil spill products shown to be ineffective and toxic + Video   
The Constrictor: a powerful 'Queen' of sailing knots!   
Boat painting - simple but best tips   
'It's never just one thing' - Swedish sailors rescued   
Cruising Club of America celebrates outstanding sailors of 2013   
Book of the Week: From the Galley of...   
Two brave women to sail India to Oman across Arabian Sea   
Rhode Island's Classic Yacht Symposium - Registration opens   
Bad Karma as roving American cruising sailor fined in New Zealand   
Another rescue for second-time unlucky solo sailor   
New York to San Fran record attempt - Maserati reaches the Horn   
Finally the book:HMS Bounty, Disaster and Survival in Superstorm Sandy   
Yachts impounded in Mexico - the agony goes on...   
Students achieve robot boat Atlantic Crossing - but not as planned   
Endurance Award for cruising sailors, new worldwide award for 2014   


For this week's complete news stories select    Last 7 Days
   Search All News
For last month's complete news stories select    Last 30 Days
   Archive News







Sail-World.com  


















Switch Default Region to:

Social Media

Asia

Australia

Canada

Europe

New Zealand

United Kingdom


http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/Twitter_logo_small.png http://www.sail-world.com/event_images/image/FaceBook-icon.png  

United States

Cruising Northern

Cruising Southern

MarineBusiness World

PowerBoat World

FishingBoating World

 

Contact

Commercial

News

Search

Contact Us

Advertisers Information

Submit news/events

Search Stories/Text

Feedback

Advertisers Directory

Newsletter Archive

Photo Gallery

 

Banner Advertising Details

Newsletter Subscribe

Video Gallery

Policies

 

 

 

Privacy Policy

 

 


Cookie Policy

 

 



This site and its contents are © Copyright TetraMedia and/or the original author, photographer etc. All Rights Reserved.  Photographs are copyright by law.  If you wish to use or buy a photograph contact the photographer directly.
X6XL WAS Cru USA