The Beacon

Blog Tags: North Pacific Gyre

News from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch

Small velella surrounded by plastic. © Scripps Institution of Oceanography

Imagine you’re in a dimly lit Italian restaurant. Famished, you take the first bite of a juicy eggplant parmesan dinner, and it turns out to be a big hunk of plastic. (Yuk.)

That’s the reality for fish in an area of the ocean known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, where fish are mistaking their food sources with a growing amount of floating trash. 

Two graduate students at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, Pete Davison and Rebecca Asch, joined the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition, or SEAPLEX, where they found evidence of plastic waste in more than 9 percent of the stomachs of fish collected during their voyage to the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre, dubbed the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The mid-water fishes contained plastic debris, primarily broken-down bits smaller than a human fingernail.

"That is an underestimate of the true ingestion rate because a fish may regurgitate or pass a plastic item, or even die from eating it. We didn't measure those rates, so our 9 percent figure is too low by an unknown amount," said Davison.

Based on these rates of ingestion, they estimate that fish in the intermediate ocean depths of the North Pacific ingest plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000 to 24,000 tons per year, but the real number could be much higher.


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Plastic Bag Makers Sue ChicoBag

© Flickr user doviende.

ChicoBag is one of the most popular brands of reusable bags. Their totes are colorful and stylish, and they help us avoid the need to create more of the plastic waste that is clogging our rivers and streams and creating massive garbage patches in our oceans.

But in a low blow meant to drain green companies like Chico Bag of time and resources, a trio of plastic bag manufacturers is suing ChicoBag for exaggerating the dangers of plastic bags to the environment.

Although some of ChicoBag’s online statements about plastic bags were indeed outdated, the company quickly corrected the errors as soon as it was notified of them. But the plastic bag trio, which includes manufacturer Hilex Poly, had no interest in ceasing fire.


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The Scanner

Happy Friday!

This week in ocean news,

...Dot Earth reports that scientists have found yet more evidence of climate change -- an increase in record high temperatures and a reduction in record low nighttime temperatures across the United States.

...As Sea Notes celebrated, the brown pelican, now ubiquitous along the East and West coasts, has been been officially declared recovered and removed from the Endangered Species list decades after its populations were decimated by DDT.

...Wrap your brain around this: scientists have discovered that a species of deep-sea crab, the squat crab, survives on a diet of trees that have sunk to the ocean floor, supporting the theory that when a tree falls in the ocean... there is somebody there to snack on it.

...The fate of bluefin tuna again rested in the hands of The International Commission for the Conservation of Atlantic Tunas (ICCAT), which met this week in Brazil. Oceana continues to call for a complete moratorium on bluefin tuna fishing.

...A Japanese trawler tipped over when it tried to haul in a catch of several dozen giant Nomura's jellyfish. Yikes.


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