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Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch May Be Killing Marine Life

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Aired 8/27/09

UC San Diego researchers are trying to figure out what's going on with a huge patch of garbage in the North Pacific Ocean.

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Above: Reporter Ed Joyce discusses the large mass of garbage in the Pacific Ocean.

UC San Diego researchers are trying to figure out what's going on with a huge patch of garbage in the North Pacific Ocean.

The scientists returned from a three-week exploration to study the Texas-sized area called the North Pacific Ocean Gyre.

The area, about 1,000 miles west of California, is where plastic and other marine debris collects after ocean currents and wind carry the material there from the west coast of North America and the east coast of Asia.

Just what effect the accumulation of human-produced plastic and other debris has on the ocean and marine life isn't known, but Scripps Institution of Oceanography researchers have returned with samples they hope will provide some answers.

Miriam Goldstein, the chief scientist for the Scripps SEAPLEX expedition, says the debris may be killing marine life and birds.

"We have a lot of work to do before we are able to say anything about the definite impact on marine life but there's some possibilities that we'll be testing," Goldstein says.

Scripps researchers also say there's another patch - four times the size of France - in the South Pacific Ocean.

They hope to explore that area in 2010.

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