Friday, December 14, 2012

Plastics in the Pacific: A Quick Recap

Kim McCabe is a Visitor Education Specialist at the New England Aquarium. She recently returned from an expedition in the North Pacific ocean studying plastic debris and its impact on the marine ecosystem. 

Read blog entries from this expedition on the Plastics At Sea: North Pacific Expedition website. Kim's reactions to follow, stay tuned. Below are some quick figures about the expedition.

The expedition has concluded. Here's a quick summary of the researchers encountered along the way from San Diego to Honolulu:
  • Number of plastic pieces counted: 69,566
  • Number of net tows: 118
  • Distance traveled: 2597 nautical miles
  • Fuel consumed: 2885 gallons
  • Fuel remaining: 3010 gallons
  • Days at sea: 36
  • Position: Honolulu, HI
The Robert C Seamans, Photo: Jon Waterman via

And more about those plastics from the researchers on board the Robert C. Seamans:
  • Hand counted 66,077 pieces of plastic from 118 plankton net tows
  • Logged 3,489 pieces of large “macrodebris” from visual surveys
  • 95 percent of the plastic collected was millimeters in size
  • Plastic was collected in every net tow within the North Pacific subtropical gyre
  • Every subsurface net tow contained plastic
  • All plastic collected had living organisms on it
  • Each net tow also contained plankton
  • Plastic counts from net tows ranged from 9 to 24,213 in the gyre

Hand-counting plastics. Photo: Jon Waterman via

The scientists will process all this data back on land, and it's a lot of information to digest. If you're interested in learning more about plastics in our oceans, check out this New England Aquarium lecture, peruse this blog about plastics around us and learn about nurdles on Caribbean beaches. And stay tuned, Kim will return with her reflections on her experience at sea.

Kim is all smiles during the expedition. Photo: Jon Waterman via

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