NOAA's Marine Debris Blog

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Calling all Garbage Patch Enthusiasts: NOAA Samples Plastics in North Pacific!


Here at NOAA we don’t always have the opportunity to work together as much as we would like.  But, sometimes, cool opportunities spring up really fast. So when some colleagues at the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) told the us that among other important work at sea, that they were going to sample surface waters for plastics out in the Pacific Ocean – well, there’s no other way to say it – we were totally psyched!  A big thanks to NMFS for thinking of the Marine Debris Program!!!

The NOAA vessel Okeanos Explorer set out on its return trip to the mainland from Honolulu, HI on October 19 and will dock in San Francisco, CA on November 1, 2010.  In addition to collecting lots of tiny plankton with something called a continuous plankton recorder, the scientists on the cruise are conducting three surface water trawls each day to assess the amount and composition of plastic in the North Pacific.  That’s a lot of trawling!

Photo courtesy of NOAA Okeanos Explorer Program.

Analysis of the samples will take some time, especially for some of the fancy chemistry that will assess chemicals that may be attached to the plastics.  But this project is one of the most comprehensive and scientific research expeditions that we have seen in this part of the world, and will hopefully help us better understand the portion of the North Pacific commonly referred to as the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.” 

Enough of my blabbing – check out the OE blog (second to last paragraph) for cool info. and pictures!

— Courtney

UPDATE: 10/28/10 Press Release, “NOAA Explores the Pacific Ocean While Supporting Fisheries Research”

Author: NOAA Marine Debris Program

The NOAA Marine Debris Program envisions the global ocean and its coasts, users, and inhabitants free from the impacts of marine debris. Our mission is to investigate and solve the problems that stem from marine debris, in order to protect and conserve our nation's marine environment, natural resources, industries, economy, and people.

2 thoughts on “Calling all Garbage Patch Enthusiasts: NOAA Samples Plastics in North Pacific!

  1. Exciting! Looking forward to hearing the results of their trip. We can only fix the problem after we know more about the scope of it. Thanks for the post.

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