June 14, 2010

Trash Found Throughout The North Atlantic Ocean

According to four French explorers just back from eight months at sea, the North Atlantic Ocean is looking more like a rubbish bin, with plastic and polystyrene flotsam spreading far and wide.

The researchers found at least four to five pieces of trash a day once out of the Britanny port of Trinite-sur-Mer in October.  In April they found a floating dump in the Sargasso Sea around Bermuda.

"In 15 minutes we saw more garbage than at any time during our journey," naval engineer Yann Geffriaud, 27, told AFP news.

"It was truly a shock, when in the middle of nowhere we came across 10 to 20 pieces of garbage every five minutes."

The Sargasso Sea is named for a brown seaweed that proliferates on its surface, entrapping any floating trash.

"Ninety-five percent of the stuff is plastics, from toothpaste tubes to aerosol containers and water bottles," Geffriaud, founder of Watch the Waste, a group that asks mariners to monitor trash on the high seas, told AFP.

"Frankly speaking, we did not see a compact area of plastic, but a scattering," added Geffriaud, whose team included an anthropologist taking stock of the seabound residue of modern civilization.

The findings were similar to those made by researcher Charles Moore who two years ago sailed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where about 100 million tons of trash lay between Hawaii and Japan.

Moore was part of the Atlantic project in spirit, providing a dinghy for its bluewater sloop.  His Algalita group also co-sponsored the effort, along with France's independent rubbish monitoring center CNIID and two NGOs.

The Sea Education Association revealed last February that the existence of another virtual island of plastic in the North Atlantic spread over a surface area as big as France.

Yann said the French expedition regularly came across garbage outside the Sargasso Sea. 

"But we saw five times more on the way back, between Bermuda and the Azores, than on the way out along a more southerly track from Cape Verde to Tobago," he told AFP.

"Given that we can never clean up the sea, the most simple thing to do is to raise public awareness," Yann and his team said.


On the Net: