Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Marine scientists will prove the obvious at ocean garbage patch

Don't expect any good news from this month's research mission to the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch," the hundreds of miles of plastic debris drifting in the middle of the North Pacific Ocean. A crew of 30, including marine scientists and technicians from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography left on the three-week fact-finding tour on Sunday, according to the Reuters international news service. The mission is designed to figure out just how much garbage is out there and what effect it is having on the marine ecosystem. Among the concerns are whether the garbage is killing the plankton, whether fish are ingesting the plastic, and if species are attaching themselves to the plastic and being transported to areas where they don't belong. "The concern is what kind of impact those plastic bits are having on the small critters on the low end of the ocean food chain," Bob Knox, the deputy director of research at Scripps, told Reuters on Monday. The crew is expected to conduct research in a laboratory aboard the 170-foot ship, the New Horizon, and to bring back samples for more-intensive study back in San Diego, Reuters said. But the research will most likely prove all of the above. Our rapidly growing human family is dumping so much garbage that the capacity of the oceans to disperse it has finally been exceeded. We're going to have to stop throwing away so much trash and figure out how to get rid of the junk we already have without doing irreversible harm to our environment.

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