Wednesday night was our first open ocean manta Trawl of our expedition. Jennifer and I stood watch as the manta trawl took to the mild seas. We waited in anticipation not confident that we would find any plastic in the codent (the 300 micron net basket at the end of our trawl). The portion of the North Atlantic Gyre we were in looked pristine – flawless cobalt blue, no swirling vortex of plastic. But just as Charlie Moore assured us we would find, we found broken, photo-degraded bits of plastic in the codent. The same consistency of plastic that we found on John Smith Bay Beach the day before that was faded, brittle and fragmented. Visibly evident that it had been at sea long enough to break down into unrecognizable plastic products and small enough to look like food to some sea animals.
We trawled for only a half hour the second night. Not only did we find plastics, but we caught 30 myctophids fish. Fish we had hoped to catch to analyze for POPs. (Persistent Organic Pollutants) Not the type of organic like food grown that is better for you. Organic, as in chemicals that are bad for people and the environment.
Another method of collection that is unique to the North Atlantic is collecting sargassum with nets as it breaks passed the bow of the ship and glides along the sides. Researchers on the ship that are not involved in this project join in as they see with their own eyes the amount of plastics we are pulling out of the sargassum. They express their amazement with the successful collection we have here 100s of miles from any continent.