Monday, August 3, 2009

Scientists Study Massive Debris in Pacific

Marine scientists from Scripps Institute of Oceanography are en route to the middle of the North Pacific for a study of plastic debris accumulating across hundreds of square miles of sea north of the Hawaiian Islands called the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch."

The expedition will study how much debris is collecting in what is known as the North Pacific Ocean Gyre, and how that material - mostly tiny plastic fragments - affects marine life.

The debris is concentrated by circular ocean currents within a vast "convergence zone" roughly midway between Japan and the West Coast of the United States.

"The concern is what kind of impact those plastic bits are having on the small critters on the low end of the ocean food chain," Bob Knox, deputy director of research at Scripps, said after the ship had spent its first full day at sea.

Besides the potential harm to sea life caused by ingesting bits of plastic, the expedition team will look at whether the particles could carry other pollutants.


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