Well, the wind has been down all day and the seas quite calm so, despite being far south of the gyre, we decided to try out our borrowed Algulita Foundation garbage manta trawl. Just to see if we could get the deployment figured out and see if there were any changes that needed to be made in order to get it to work off ol’ Khulula.
Hugh set-up the whisker pole and we slowly lowered the net into the water off our starboard beam, following the NOAA instructions passed along to us by Charles Moore. Initially we thought we could just hold the line and net by hand – luckily there was a winch nearby ! Fifteen minutes later we pulled the net back on board, after deciding that, “Yes, we can pull this off when we reach the gyre. Cool, lets pack it all away till we get there.” Nonchalantly we peered into the collection bottle just in case we had caught something. Well, to say we were shocked would be a gross UNDERstatement. Inside, we had caught a tiny flying fish, a few small jelly fish-looking things and about 40 pieces of plastic !
The amount of plastic FAR outnumbered and outweighed the amount of natural matter in our trawl ! We threw the net back out again, just to make sure it was not just an anomaly. Sure enough when we pulled it in, the collection bottle was once again filled with lots of tiny plastic pieces and very few natural marine animals. Hugh and I just kinda looked at each other, completely shocked – not quite knowing what to say. We have been going to schools and events all over the world, using stats from others research groups for deep ocean garbage and always been pretty shocked by the numbers. However, until you stand out here at sea, look out to the endless horizon and realize that the ENTIRE ocean is filled with garbage do you truly understand the magnitude of this problem. The tiny little sample we took is so infinitesimally small in contrast to the entire ocean and, despite this, it was still filled with plastic debris. We just finished taking this sample, so I am just typing with quickly and we have nothing compare it to. Well, other than the fact, that naturally we should have found absolutely NO plastic in our oceans and trawl. I am just shocked, despite how bad I thought this problem is it is alot worse than the picture painted by the facts and figures.
I just wish we had dissected the 30lb yellow fin tuna we caught this morning, I am positive that we would have found plastics in its stomach. We will be fishing again in a couple days, and then a full dissection will occur. Stand by for a more cohesive/intelligent look at our trawls and tuna stomach excavations.