1 Sep 2009

Pacific marine life continues to suffer from plastic ingestion

8:31 pm on 1 September 2009

American scientists recently returned from a voyage to investigate giant areas of floating plastic waste in the Pacific Ocean believe marine life is suffering as human rubbish enters the food chain.

A University of California researcher, Miriam Goldstein, says the area known as the North Pacific Gyre spans a vast area and the debris pulled up in nets was like a thin soup of plastic bits smaller than a thumbnail.

Ms Goldstein and her colleagues at the university's Scripps Institute of Oceanography and will analyse samples over the next month.

"The plastic pieces are the same size as a lot of the microscopic animals out there. So they are already the correct size to be ingested by fish or birds. And in fact albatrosses are already ingesting this plastic. Its thought that toxins and toxic chemicals might be transferred from the plastic to the animals that ingest them."

Ms Golstein says the sea currents and trade winds keep rubbish blown from the land swirling, and sunlight breaks down the plastic into small fragments.

The team hopes to raise funds to do similar research of a South Pacific gyre which is estimated to be at four times larger.