Scientists and volunteers track trash in ocean
Scientists and volunteers track trash in ocean In this Aug. 2, 2015, photo provided by The Ocean Cleanup shows, Mega Expedition crew members, Mario Merkus, left, and Serena Cunsolo on mother ship R/V Ocean Starr with the results of trawling with one 6 meter-wide net for one hour in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. (The Ocean Cleanup via AP)
Scientists and volunteers track trash in ocean
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Far away from California's coast, where the Pacific Ocean currents swirl, the blue of the sea was replaced by fishing nets, buckets, buoys, laundry baskets and unidentifiable pieces of plastic. They floated past the Ocean Starr. It is a ship that was carrying a team of scientists and volunteers. They were gathering data on plastic garbage.
"We were surrounded by an endless layer of garbage," sad Serena Cunsolo. She is an Italian marine biologist who works for The Ocean Cleanup. "It was devastating to see."
Cunsolo, 28, was one of a team of 15 researchers and volunteers aboard the Ocean Starr. The ship set out this summer from San Francisco to study the plastic waste. The trip was part of the "Mega Expedition." The trip was a major step in the organization's effort to eventually clean up what's known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The 171-foot mother ship carried massive white bags filled with plastic garbage. The vessel returned to San Francisco along with two sailing boats with volunteers who helped collect the garbage samples.
Most of the trash they found, including a 1-ton fishing net, is medium to large-sized pieces, as opposed to confetti-like plastic shards. The smaller pieces can easily enter the food chain after being eaten by small fish and birds. They are extremely difficult to clean up, said Boyan Slat. He founded The Ocean Cleanup and has developed a technology that he says can start removing the garbage by 2020.
"It was a good illustration of why it is such an urgent thing to clean up. Because if we don't clean it up soon, then we'll give the big plastic time to break into smaller and smaller pieces," Slat said.
Volunteer crews on 30 boats have been measuring the size and mapping the location of tons of plastic waste floating between the West Coast and Hawaii. According to some estimates, the area is twice the size of Texas.
Slat said the group will publish a report of its findings by mid-2016. After that, the group hopes to test out a 1-mile barrier. It would collect garbage near Japan. The ultimate goal is the construction of a 60-mile barrier in the middle of the Pacific.
The expedition was sponsored by The Ocean Cleanup. It's an organization founded by Slat. He is a 21-year-old innovator from the Netherlands. Slat has envisioned using long-distance floating barriers that will attach to the seabed with an anchoring system used by oil-drilling rigs. The devices will target ocean currents full of waste. The barriers would skim garbage from the surface. Meanwhile, aquatic life and the currents themselves pass underneath.
He first became passionate about cleaning the oceans of plastic while diving in the Mediterranean Sea five years ago. "I was diving in Greece and realized that there were more plastic bags than fish. And I wondered why can't we clean this up," Slat said.
After dropping out of university after his first six months, Slat dedicated his life to developing the technology the group will start testing next year.
He decided to launch a Kickstarter campaign and raised about $2.27 million that helped to launch his organization. Soon, his innovative solution got the attention of major philanthropists in Europe and Silicon Valley. One was CEO Marc Benioff. The philanthropists are helping pay for the data-gathering efforts and the technology's development.
The Pacific expedition, which will end in mid-September, will gather data that will be more extensive than what has been collected in the past 40 years. It also will give a better estimate of the how much plastic waste is in the Pacific Ocean, Slat said.
The boaters are using GPS and a smartphone app to search for and record the plastic. They take samples and ship them to the Netherlands. There, the plastics are counted and recorded.
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch was discovered by Charles J. Moore in 1997 as he returned home from the Transpacific Yacht Race, which starts in Los Angeles and ends in Honolulu.

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Why is it important to track the trash?
Write your answers in the comments section below

  • daizypd-ols
    9/14/2015 - 12:58 p.m.

    Why would people litter the ocean with trash? I hope that people realize that the fish are dying because of the trash.

  • briannar-1-ols
    9/14/2015 - 01:00 p.m.

    I think that it is good that people are picking up trash in the ocean and then studying it. By studying the trash they are also making an effort to clean up the Pacific Ocean.

  • kp2016-cla
    9/14/2015 - 01:21 p.m.

    so many people just throw trash in the ocean

  • cg2016-cla
    9/14/2015 - 01:22 p.m.

    In my opinion, this is very good progress in the world and in human kindness in general. Even that small bit, compared to the garbage in the ocean, made a big difference for the ocean and all its wildlife within it. We just need to keep working at it and eventually we can have so little trash in the ocean that its completely clear waters.

    Critical thinking question: Why is it important to track trash?

    It is VERY important to track trash for 2 main reasons. A: it helps us identify where and how much trash is in a certain area. And B: it can help us figure out how we can take that trash away/ out of the environment.

  • ck2016-cla
    9/14/2015 - 01:32 p.m.

    I can not begin top explain how i feel about those willing to take the time to help out for not only the definite of themselves but others as well. Seeing how oceans are today it is always a rewarding feeling when being able to help out in the smallest way, it all counts. Next time i go to the beach and see trash laying around i'll be sure to pick it up.

  • prestonj-nar
    9/14/2015 - 01:33 p.m.

    The seas have always been clogged with trash. The last time I went to the beach there was cups and net all in the water and it was stinky.

  • irisb-nar
    9/14/2015 - 01:39 p.m.

    I wish I was a part of this. The title had me all the way.

  • nataliac-nar
    9/14/2015 - 01:41 p.m.

    I love to think that people are really dedicating to the marine life and cleaning the ocean.

  • sierrat-nar
    9/14/2015 - 01:42 p.m.

    I never knew there was so much trash in the ocean, it's horrible.

  • valerieh-nar
    9/14/2015 - 01:44 p.m.

    It is very shocking how there are more garbage bags than fish. The ocean is a fishes home and there should be more fish than garbage bags.

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