April 16, 2010

Mass Of Plastic Garbage Found In Atlantic Ocean

Researchers have discovered a mass of floating plastic garbage, not unlike the so-called Great Pacific Garbage Patch discovered between Hawaii and California last decade, over a remote location in the Atlantic Ocean.

"We found the great Atlantic garbage patch," Anna Cummins, one of those individuals who collected plastic samples from a location between Bermuda and the Azores Islands in February, told Associated Press (AP) reporter Mike Melia. "Our job now is to let people know that plastic ocean pollution is a global problem--it unfortunately is not confined to a single patch."

Cummins, a native of Santa Monica, California, and her husband, Marcus Eriksen, sailed across the ocean for their research project, stopping every 100 miles to take samples.

During their time in the Sargasso Sea, they discovered that every time they pulled up their trawl, it contained plastic materials.

Furthermore, according to Melia, the couple reported seeing "countless specks of plastic, often smaller than pencil erasers, suspended near the surface of the deep blue Atlantic."

Those plastics are responsible for as many as 100,000 marine mammal deaths each year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and up to 80-percent of such aquatic debris originates on land, says the U.N. Environmental Program.

"That plastic has the potential to impact our resources and impact our economy," Lisa DiPinto, acting director of the NOAA marine debris program, told the AP on April 15. "It's great to raise awareness so the public can see the plastics we use can eventually land in the ocean."

Cummins and Eriksen presented their findings during the 2010 Oceans Sciences Meeting in Portland, Oregon, this week. They also announced plans to conduct similar studies in the South Atlantic and the South Pacific starting in November.


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