Friday, October 2, 2009

Day 25

Noon Coordinates 30°27'16.62"N, 130°57'31.86"W

Day 25
As of yesterday, we crossed over into another time zone - Pacific Standard Time - and are now only one hour behind California. The ocean continues to pound the bottom of the boat while rouge waves hit us from all sides. What to do? Make Jeffy Pop popcorn. Jeff is a maestro popcorn popper! (picture coming soon) He shakes the pot down while shimmying on his feet to maintain position in front of the stove. There is a whole lot more talent involved then it sounds.

So after three days of trying to play my 20 minute game and not spotting one thing in the ocean, I finally asked the captain why. The obvious answer was the sea state, but in the gyre, we were still seeing stuff in pretty rough seas. The better answer came from a simulation presentation on how trash works its way around the North Pacific done by Dr. Jim Ingraham. Due to the California current, the current carries debris from the states south of our current position and sends it toward the Philippines via the Equatorial current. The trash from Japan area comes via the Kuroshio Extension to the Oyashio Current. So we are in an area that plastic pollution is not so apt to be spread around. The captain assured me we’ll be seeing trash from the States as we get closer to shore.

Since I’ve mentioned our wonderful students in the continental US and Canada, I would also like to thank the participation of students at George Washington High in Guam! Great to hear from you and all of you, keep the questions rolling!

More later,


Q: Hi. I have a question about the plastic ratio to plankton.Has it changed at all?If so, what was the change.Oh and be careful because of the storm. George Washington High School Mangilao, Guam, 12th grade Quentin Thank you for your time.

A: Hey there Quentin, All of us, including the captain are very happy to hear from you students in Guam. You put a smile on his face though the results from our surveys do not. Although we haven’t analyzed our samples, it appears from our winter samples and what we’ve seen out here this summer, the ratio of plastic to zooplankton has increased. Once we finalize the numbers, we’ll post it on our website. Thanks for asking Quentin and we’ll be sure to be careful! Best to you, Bonnie

Q: Hi, my name is Cassandra and I'm a senior at George Washington High School on Guam. I would like to know what are your predictions for the future due to plastic? How long until, do you think, that bioaccumulation will be at its most high? Cassandra

A: Hi Cassandra, With respect to what we have observed during this cruise we predict that plastics will increase in the gyre unless we change peoples behavior to be more responsible for disposing of plastics properly. Though your bioaccumulation question is good, it is very difficult to answer. I assume that you are asking about bioaccumulation of plastics in marine organisms. Bioaccumulation is a biochemical process and one could argue that plastics won't bioaccumulate as they are not broken down by organisms. On the other hand, small fish can and do ingest small plastic particles and these fish then may be eaten by larger fish and the plastic accumulates in the big fish. In fact, on the first leg of this voyage - from southern California to the international date line, there was a Mahi Mahi caught that had a lantern fish in its stomach that had plastic in it. Depending on the size of the plastic, once the fish is digested then the Mahi Mahi might retain the plastic piece. At higher trophic levels like albatross, sea turtles and whales, there are numerous examples of death from ingesting of plastics or plastic bags.
I hope this helps. Dr. Bill Cooper

Q:My name is Marquisha. i am from George Washington High School, Guam. I am a junior and i am currently taking Marine Bio. I have recently watched your video, synthetic sea. It brought a concern. I was wondering what is the economy doing to prevent plastics or debris that gets into the ocean. Plastic is a major thing nowadays because its cheaper. But have your statistics brought up a concern in the world.... And how is the weather. Storms are coming from left to right in the pacific ocean. Hope you guys are managing okay.

A: Hi Marquisha, Glad to hear you are taking Marine Bio. It’s through education that people will begin to understand why plastic in the marine environment is bad and your education can help. You pose some very good questions that are difficult to answer. Before we can get the economy to change its production of plastic, we have to get people to stop buying things like balloons that are used for such a short time and then here for hundreds of years. Usually when there is not a demand for products, they are no longer produced. So people have the power to decide if they will buy items in plastic. Sometimes you don’t have a choice. What you can do is write to companies asking them to stop putting their products in plastic. The captain says we need chemists to redesign the way we make plastics so they are not toxic as well. As far as awareness around the world goes, we are beginning to see more environmental groups taking on the plastics industry as well as educate people on the problems with plastic. Captain Moore has been to several countries around the world giving presentations to educate leaders on the problems with plastics. Thank you for your very bright questions. Best, Bonnie

Q: iv always ben very curious if this has ever happened to anyone. has a squid ever got you with its ink before? :) how is the weather on the boat? is it as nice as it seems? have you guys ever come across a bad storm? do you guys always have toe at fish? if not, what do you guys usually have? have you ever ran out of liquids to drink? Ariel, River Ridge, Florida

A: Ariel, as a matter of fact, Dr. Cooper got inked by squid that he caught in a net down in the Florida Keys! The weather changes every half hour it seems. It’s sunny, then cloudy, then rains a little, then it repeats the cycle. It is in the high 60s-low 70s. We haven’t come across any bad storms, just high seas.
We don’t have to eat fish, but we try to catch one a day to necropsy their stomachs looking to see if they ingested plastic and then we eat them. We have only caught Mahi-Mahi so far. We have a watermaker on board which takes salt water and makes it drinkable so we have an entire ocean to drink! It tastes good too. Thanks for the questions. Best, Bonnie

Q: I have read that a group from Scripps Institution of Oceanography has also gone out to the Pacific Plastic Gyre to take samples and study it. Are you collaborating with them or if not, what are they doing differently from you?

A: Happy to know you and your 4H group is voyaging with us! Thanks Amy. Yes, AMRF is collaborating with Scripps and have procured samples for them as well. Scripps even used the same protocol guidelines as AMRF.

Q: You mentioned that there is little ocean life in the gyre itself. Yet your previous statistics say the ratio of plastic to plankton in the gyre is 6:1. But if fish are not in the gyre then where are they ingesting plastic and what do you estimate is the ratio of plastic to plankton is in those areas?

A: It’s not that there aren’t any fish, it just doesn’t have the great schools of fish as in transition zones where the warm water meets the cold water and is nutrient rich. The fish that are here are eating plastic because plastic emulates food in many ways. As far as the ratios go, the samples from this summer will be processed over the next several months.Thanks for the questions and I hope the answers help. Bonnie and Crew

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