Stomach the plastic pollution in the Western North Atlantic Ocean

The western North Atlantic ocean has its own garbage patch to deal with, say scientists.

You see this tiggerfish in the picture? Forty-seven pieces of plastic debris were found in its stomach.


After 22 years of collecting data on plastics, scientists from Sea Education Association (SEA), Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI), and the University of Hawaii (UH) published their results in Science.

Some 64,000 individual plastic pieces from 6100 locations were swooped up.

The researchers found that the plastic mostly accumulated away from the shore due to ocean currents. The trouble spot was at "32°N (roughly the latitude of Atlanta, GA) and extending from 22-38°N latitude."

SEA scientist Kara Lavender Law said in a statement, "Not only does this important data set provide the first rigorous scientific estimate of the extent and amount of floating plastic at an ocean-basin scale, but the data also confirm that basic ocean physics explains why the plastic accumulates in this region so far from shore."

Surprisingly, the amount of floating plastic is basically the same as it was two decades ago.

Perhaps, the excess plastic has gone missing.

But how? Scientist have reason to believe the bacterial growth on the plastic causes it to change its shape — which makes it sink to the bottom.

Photos: David M. Lawrence and Marilou Maglione, SEA

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