Scientists have discovered an area
of the North Atlantic Ocean where plastic debris accumulates.
The region is said to compare with
the well-documented “great Pacific garbage patch”.
Karen Lavender Law of the Sea
Education Association said the issue of plastics had been “largely ignored”
in the Atlantic.
She announced the findings of a
two-decade-long study at the Ocean Sciences Meeting in Portland, Maine.
The work is the conclusion of the
longest and most extensive record of plastic marine debris in any ocean basin.
Scientists and students from the
SEA collected plastic and marine debris in fine mesh nets that were towed
behind a research vessel.
The nets dragged along were half-in
and half-out of the water, picking up debris and small marine organisms from
the sea surface.
The researchers carried out 6,100
tows in areas of the Caribbean and the North Atlantic – off the coast of the
US. More than half of these expeditions revealed floating pieces of plastic on
the water surface.
These were pieces of low-density
plastic that are used to make many consumer products, including plastic bags.
“We found a region fairly far
north in the Atlantic Ocean where this debris appears to be concentrated and
remains over long periods of time,” Dr. Lavender Law said.
“More than 80 per cent of the
plastic pieces we collected in the tows were found between 22 and 38 degrees
north. So we have a latitude for [where this] rubbish seems to accumulate,”
The maximum “plastic
density” was 200,000 pieces of debris per square kilometre.
“That’s a maximum that is
comparable with the Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” said Dr Lavender Law.
The impacts on the marine
environment of the plastics were still unknown, added the researcher.
“But we know that many marine
organisms are consuming these plastics and we know this has a bad effect on
seabirds in particular,” she told BBC News.