Final Blog: at anchor off Arch Point, Santa Barbara Island
Captain Charles Moore
Gyre Voyage 2014 comes to a close
Listen to the crew. They have now experienced the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” first hand, and it has changed them. I have been there ten times over the last 15 years. It has gotten much, much worse. I was shocked to see what was an uncommon occurrence during my first voyages—an area of concentrated floating plastic visible to the naked eye—now persist over hundreds of miles, with these areas being the rule, not the exception. Some of this floating plastic was tsunami related, but much was Chinese, not Japanese. Asia will continue to adopt the throwaway plastic lifestyle. People will continue to live in the coastal zone. Plastic will continue to dominate the consumer, construction and agricultural marketplace. Aquaculture, that uses huge amounts of plastic infrastructure, will increase. The world will continue to experience great tsunamis, storms and other disasters, both natural and unnatural, which will wash tons of plastic into the sea. Recycling will lag far behind innovation of new, difficult to recycle plastics. Progress toward benign plastics will be slow. The Garbage Patches will grow. How much the one we study has grown will be my work for the next couple of years. Algalita Marine Research and Education will continue to raise the issue of marine plastic pollution, and make accurate information available, so that a critical mass of concerned individuals can cooperate and force the changes needed to mitigate this growing crisis in our precious ocean.
Jesus Amador Reyes
For me this research voyage has truly left me speechless; I know it may sound cliché or even somewhat like I’m trying to be poetic but I’m not. When it comes to the purpose of the voyage for me, it was to collect blood samples to analyze how the debris and the chemicals associated with the debris might affect fish within and out of the gyre. How we sampled (trawling, hand netting, purse seine, hook and line or just finding them in plastic debris) and how many we got by these methods I was; shocked, amazed, pumped-up, excited, awestruck….the list goes on and one. Really there is no one way to describe how the sampling has gone from a personal scientific point of view. I was able to collect samples from a species (myctophids) which by sheer numbers make up more than half of all fish in the world. Sampled what look like juvenile sunfish (potentially); a species so rare I don’t know if anyone has blood and tissue samples analyzed for this species. Then there are the Mahi mahi and albacore samples which bring to light the ultimate message. Too many times people hear about the plastic/debris in the ocean and think large pieces and a “dirty” place. But the reason I’m here is to determine to what extent this debris impacts the fish. Endocrine systems are so vital to the overall HEALTH of ANY organism (from fish to humans). So although these fish may not have high levels of a single contaminant, if their system is being disrupted they are not healthy. If you alter an organism’s growth, stress, developmental, reproductive or immune system there is no way they can be healthy. And there it is……..ultimately people have heard this before; we are tied to all environments. If we contaminate a field, would anyone eat anything grown in that field? If livestock was contaminated, would anyone eat that meat? ….so everything links back to humans and human health. It’s important to protect all our environments because it is the right thing to do, but also because ultimately we are protecting ourselves. To think of how much debris is out here, seeing copious amounts of it float by, seeing copious amounts collected in our trawls and to think we only covered a tiny micro fraction of the Pacific Ocean. Then to think of all the potential chemicals that we have released into our oceans and those that are leaching out of all those debris products making it a chemical soup more than the beautiful pristine environment that it should be……..well……..I’m speechless.
Lorena M. Rios Mendoza
I am not sure how to start this paragraph….with good or bad news…I kept in my memory the beautiful sunset on the Pacific Ocean, these red and orange colors mixed with the blue of the ocean and white sky from my gyre voyage in 2007. This time the weather was not cooperative to enjoy the first week on the Pacific Ocean. The ocean waters were moving and moving, nevertheless, the ocean is so magnificent and it is sad to see how humans are destroying this wonderful habitat.
This is my second time on the North Pacific Gyre, and I never thought I would see and find all the plastic that we found every single day in the Gyre. In 2007, I was impacted with the amount of plastic that we collected on the manta trawls, but this time the manta trawls collected macro plastics too. After the results from chemical analysis on the 2007 samples, which showed the plastic debris can concentrate, and transport toxic chemicals, I decided to study plastic debris pollution in the oceans and the Great Lakes. The main risk with the synthetic plastic debris is that they can easily be confused with natural food because the small sizes and its density, lower than the seawater. However, we can keep in mind that not all the synthetic plastics float in the ocean, there are more kinds of plastics that sink. Then we have a double problem, in the surface and in the sediments at the bottom of the ocean.
The oceans are considered as a buffer for the contamination, but we do not know how long this buffer can resist the abuse of human pollution. It is important that young people know about this huge problem and help to stop the plastic pollution and find new products that substitute for the non –biodegradable synthetic plastic.
This voyage was so educational for me, I learned how to take blood samples from fish, the names of different organisms that were caught with the manta trawls, and I was so happy cooking with Dale Selvam, el Brujo, all the different dishes that he was teaching me. I jumped in the ocean one time during the day and the night, this was great. In general, I can tell you that this trip was loaded with wonderful and sad experience at the same time.
This voyage was an amazing opportunity to not just study, but to experience the
unique ecosystem of the Eastern Pacific Gyre in a new way – a slow and
methodical way, with enough time for exploration as well as deep contemplation.
My professional goals were to use science to help quantify the extent of the
plastic pollution issue, and to document and record our findings to share with
other researches and the public. As an ocean science communicator and
community activist, I know together we can pinpoint solutions to this controllable
problem and reign in consumerism to tame the plastic beast.
It has been a pleasure to see my crew mates diligently working their disciplines,
and to be part of the team work needed for us to deploy, retrieve and process the
numerous trawl samples we gathered. I was able to get some great specimens
and data for my Scripps labs as well, and I am thankful my Geiger counter only
hit above 100 once.
But in many ways, the work now is just beginning for me on the personal level.
The issue is so easy for people to ignore and just carry on with life as usual, I felt
the need to do something radical to wake them, and myself, out of complacency.
This is undoubtedly the most extreme thing I have done, in a life already
brimming with travel and adventure. But as challenging as it was, it was
worthwhile on many levels, and I hope that the data gathered, images captured,
and the experiences shared with many may foster positive momentum and
DEDICATION AND GETTING THE JOB DONE UNTIL THE END.
CAPTAIN DALE SELVAM.
A year of preparation for this six week Pacific Gyre voyage. Testing new equipment, trawls, nets ….refurbishing old equipment, manta, cameras. Two intense months, 12 hours a day, six days a week in the boatyard, reinforcing nacelles and propeller cages installed,1000’s of $$$$$. Miles of testing, miles of lists, back in the boatyard, more $$$$$. Fundraising, meetings, hours of computer work, late into the night on the phone with service techs. More lists…….All systems on Research Vessel Alguita checked over, engines refurbished, pumps serviced, new sails installed, tested. Last minute major electrical system upgrades, more $$$$$. Weeks to go turned to days then last spares and stores aboard. Moorings cast off and into the gyre. Last minute crew changes means everybody multi tasking to the max, diving, drone operating, dinghy, sailing, cooking, wrenching ,filming, it’s good to be busy and use new skills and hone old ones. After 30,000 miles, 4 years and hundreds of trawls searching for plastic on another vessel, arriving in Captain Moore’s Plastic Paradise it was shocking to encounter an actual island of plastic, see more plastic in every sample than ever before, continuous debris floating past the boat, swimming in cesspools of new and old trash. Mind-blowing!! We have filmed from the air with the drone, underwater, hours of film, thousands of photos. Now begins the mammoth task of stitching all this together and getting the visual word out there. The days seemed endless, the weeks longer but now we count down the hours until we head back and the voyage ends. The work begins again. It seems like the end but the end is never near. Samples need to be analyzed, Alguita needs a spring clean. Trash is still pouring into our oceans. Captain Moore will have an endless string of interviews; television, radio, magazines, his tireless dedication is incredible, an example to follow, the end will never be reached, we must all fight this plastic problem everyday, endlessly, tirelessly, every time you shop, think about what you need, REALLY. Thanks to COORC, Klean Kanteen ,Reef Clothing, individual donors, volunteers , without your help these important missions would never happen and these important messages would not get out there.
So now, let’s roll our sleeves up and do what we can as individuals and groups working to clean up this mess we are all responsible for.
Local Beach-Global Garbage