Garbage patch discovered in Atlantic

| 20/08/2010

(Independent): A huge expanse of floating plastic debris has been documented for the first time in the North Atlantic Ocean. The size of the affected area rivals the "great Pacific garbage patch" in the world’s other great ocean basin, which generated an outcry over the effects of plastic waste on marine wildlife. The patch  which was discovered to the east of Bermuda, consists mostly of fragments no bigger than a few millimetres wide. But their concentrations and the area of the sea that is covered have caused consternation among marine biologists studying the phenomenon. Kara Lavender Law from the Sea Education Association in Woods Hole, Massachusetts, said the size of the Atlantic "garbage patch" was roughly equal to the one in the Pacific..

"The Pacific has received more attention in terms of plastic accumulation but we know less about the Pacific so it’s very difficult to compare the Atlantic patch in terms of size. We had a cruise this summer to try to find the eastern extent and in fact we failed to find it," Dr Lavender Law said.

Small fragments of plastic could pose an even greater menace to marine life than the larger fragments that become entangled with animals such as albatrosses and turtles, she said. "We know that smaller pieces of plastic are eaten and it’s unclear what happens to that plastic then. But clearly biological organisms were not designed to eat plastic," she said.

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