Mapping the Pacific Garbage Patch and Ocean Currents Moving Plastics and Debris

Are you taking advantage of local meet ups? Recently I dropped in on a lecture at the University of Victoria with my daughter. The presentation titled “The Greatest Infection of The Sea”, sponsored by the U Vic Biology Dept., was all about the state of the oceans and in particular, the alarming amount of plastics that are polluting this resource. It was pretty alarming really, presented by Captain Charles Moore who founded the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, CA. Some amazing items I picked up on: plastics are widespread and largely unseen (hence our feeling that there’s no issue here); fish are feeding on plastics, so much that biologists actually want to incorporate plastic into the food chain diagrams! Pollution comes from many sources, mainly plastic bags, water bottles, and the largest culprit is likely the Korean fisheries. These plastics find their way into the ocean, converge into the Great Garbage Patch and then start a journey navigating the Ocean via a series of currents, resulting in an endless trip and growing cycle of trash. What’s disturbing is the impact this is having on sea life and eventually on the human population.

Some interesting observations and notes from the lecture:

  • Some of the most common fish (in bio-mass) in the sea are consuming plastics (a study showd 35% of those surveyed had plastic present)
  • Fish are becoming weaker and have a lower reproduction rate after ingesting plastics
  • Korean fisheries are the largest commercial polluter of plastics
  • Golf courses by the sea in Hawaii ore littering the nearby shoreline with golf balls (450 found in one spot in just an hour)
  • Many items are not biodegradable when in the ocean
  • Pollutants are resulting in estrogen being introduced into human diets and potentially higher rates of diabetes and obesity
  • Plastic may be introduced into food chain diagrams!

Map of Currents moving the garbage patch – Source: Wikipedia

 

After hearing the stats and the images I’m more convinced now that I’ll do much more to consume only local product, reduce needless plastics (Why the F do I wrap up perfectly good, bio degradable dog shit in a plastic bag for permanent preservation). Honestly, if I was to go to Hawaii I wouldn’t consume the local fish, its that bad and I definitely won’t be buying any imported frozen fish from Asia, mainly Korea – buy BC, WA State, Alaska fish! If this topic interests you try a Google search (or a DuckDuckGo search) on “The Great Pacific garbage patch“, check out the health effects of BPA and see also http://www.algalita.org

Interesting to note, just as I was penning this blog post I noticed a tweet referencing a map on the LA Times blog of trash that is in the World’s Oceans.. interesting and timely!

 

 

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Editor (18230 Posts)

Glenn is a geographer and a GIS professional with over 20 years experience in the industry. He's the co-founder of GISuser and several other technology web publications.


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