A few nights ago in Santa Barbara I had the good fortune of meeting Captain Charles Moore, the discoverer of the amazingly well known garbage patches in the North Pacific Gyre – the 600 square mile of circulating ocean where they found plastic in the surface waters outweighing zooplankton six to one. Virtually every talk I give, someone has read about the patch and mentions it to me.
Moore’s discovery was ten years ago this summer, aboard his 50-foot aluminum hulled catamaran the “Algalita.” When we met I asked what he was up to now and he suggested a phone call to explain, which we had yesterday. Turns out he’s planning to head back to the North Pacific this summer, to revisit the area near Hawaii that he and his team sampled a decade ago and then attempt to go further west.
“I’m convinced the amount of plastic in the ocean in that part of the world is doubling every ten years and I want to go back and prove it. But I’m also convinced the area to the west between Hawaii and the International Date Line is even worse.” Again the “Algalita” will drag collection nets to gauge just how much plastic is swirling around on the surface of the gyre and carry back samples of fish to assess both toxin levels and plastic ingestion.
“It’s an amazing thing to see,” he says from his office in Long Beach, “there’s so much plastic in the sea out there it feels like you could almost step off the boat and walk on it. It’s not quite that thick … but close.”
His Algalita Marine Research Foundation has committed to studying some of the planet’s most remote parts of the ocean, which is not inexpensive. Like most environmental research groups, he’s right now patching together monies for the two-month long expedition. It’s revelatory to me that though his initial research and his Garbage Patch have attracted international attention yet he still finds it hard to find funding for his continued research. Given my interest in the subject of ocean pollution – particularly plastic pollution, which we’ve seen all around the world – we’re pondering how OCEANS 8 and our film production arm might get involved, which I’m sure will happen at some level.
For more Moore and the “Algalita,” check this collection of blogs on the subject of plastic and the ocean.