New “garbage patch” discovered in South Pacific ocean

South Pacific Garbage Patch 1

Many are getting familiar with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch or the term “gyre”, referring to areas of our oceans where large amounts of plastic debris lay swirling in ever-growing dimensions. Now a study published in he journal Marine Pollution Bulletin marks the first documentation of a defined ocean garbage patch in the Southern Hemisphere, where little research on marine plastic pollution exists.

Scientists from The 5 Gyres Institute have discovered the first evidence of a “garbage patch,” an accumulation zone of plastic pollution floating in the South Pacific subtropical gyre. A team of scientists and interested citizens lead by 5 Gyres Institute Executive Director, Dr. Marcus Eriksen, conducted the first ever sampling of the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre for marine plastic pollution in March-April 2011. Samples were collected every 50 nautical miles from the ocean surface near Robinson Crusoe Island, Chile, westward to Easter Island, then on to Pitcairn Island, along a 2,424 nautical mile straight-line transect.

“Without a doubt, we have discovered a previously unknown garbage patch in the South Pacific Subtropical Gyre,” said Dr. Eriksen.

Plastic ocean debris

As Eriksen suspected,  plastic pollution isn’t just a North Pacific phenomenon. It’s a global problem with global implications for fisheries, tourism, marine ecosystems and human health. In recent years, 5 Gyres has become a preeminent force for gathering marine plastic pollution data and taking that evidence from scientific publications to media, concerned citizens, policy makers and stakeholders. The 5 Gyres Institute is also working on scientific papers documenting the abundance of marine plastic pollution in all five subtropical gyres, and results of the recent expedition and recent discovery of micro-plastics in the Great Lakes.

“To create a solution to an ecosystem-wide problem we must understand the scope and magnitude of that problem. It’s our (5 Gyres) mission to be on the frontlines of that understanding, and to continue monitoring the most remote regions of the world’s oceans,” said Dr. Eriksen.

In 2013 the 5 Gyres Institute will launch three expeditions to the North Atlantic, Indian Ocean and Great Lakes. These continued expeditions will provide additional insight to the scope of the problem worldwide, in the South Pacific and beyond.

4 Responses

  1. Thanks for posting about this – it’s important that people be aware of this issue.

  2. After retrieving the plastics from the ocean, what material impact does the salt water have regarding the integrity of the material.
    Also is their an estimated break down in category percentages for the waste stream, .e.g, PE, PET, DHPE, LDPE, etc.


    • All good and important questions, Terry. I suspect that as the plastic retrieval programs are implemented, the answers to those questions will begin to be addressed. But I’m glad you brought them up!

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