|Sample of the N. Pacific Garbage Patch, Oregon State 2010|
|Sample I witnessed with AMRF 2009|
The problem is by the time most of the plastic reaches this location, its broken down into small pieces. Nice bite size fragments for surface feeding fish. We agree that this is what the said Garbage Patch looks like and we agree that fish are eating it. What I don't agree with is publicly degrading the work of another researcher. And It is poor science if a scientist degrades the work of another verbally without conducting the same experiment and coming up with a different conclusion regarding the 6-1 plastics to zooplankton.
The original expression was that plastic is accumulating in an area twice the size of Texas and then it manifested to an island of plastic twice the size of Texas. The original claim is correct. That was the size of the area sampled by Charles Moore and plastic was found in every sample. It has been the media that has gotten it wrong. Mind you sampling is done with a trawl with an opening less than a meter across and less than a 1/2 meter deep. Its like sampling just a few inches of one thread on a quilt 4 miles in diameter. To find any quantity of plastic 2000 miles away from any land mass is not be undermined as trivial which is a tone conveyed in this article.
After being in both the North Pacific and Atlantic as well as South Atlantic, I would say on average what we pulled out of the Garbage Patch had far higher concentrations. Our surface tows average 1 hour. So the comment " A recent trawl (singular) White conducted in a remote section of water between Easter Island and Chile pulled in no plastic at all." First of all was only one sample and second I would have to ask, how long was your tow? It could be comparing apples to oranges. The problem with assessing the scale of this problem is, like the article says, "plastic is not evenly dispersed" so they could easily missed accumulations of plastic by running short timed samples.
I've been to 3 of the 5 gyres and regardless of size, plastic is everywhere. I haven't seen one sample come back that hasn't had plastic - 54 samples in the N. Pacific, 19 samples in the N. Atlantic, and 64 in the S. Atlantic. Lastly, it has been the media that has taken liberty in hyperbole. The first thing Captain Moore said to me when I met him for the first time was, "it isn't an island of trash out there. That has been journalistic liberties."
Though I agree the hyperbole has created an illusion of an island, the problem is much larger than an island of trash. Below is Marcus Eriksen's rebuttal and far more eloquent.
Beyond the absurdity of a “Texas-sized Garbage Patch” lies a larger menace of plastic pollution in the world’s oceans