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Samples from the ocean

22 april 2010

We collected a large number of samples using the different trawls. The catch can be broken down into larger, identifiable, pieces of plastic, smaller degraded pieces (measuring 1 cm down to less than 1 mm) and “marine life”. Larger pieces may be, for example, degraded cups, measuring spoons, plastic balls, and pieces of net or rope. Often, they have been “nibbled at”. In any case, there are no “plastic islands” in the ocean.

Our “catch” on board the Beagle is being studied and graded, with the very large pieces of plastic (more than approximately 5 cm) being kept separate. Everything, both the plastic and the “marine life”, is being kept in alcohol for further study. Marcus and Anna have taken everything with them to the Algalita Foundation in America. The plastic will be sorted by size and weight for the purposes of distribution calculations and determining plastic concentration levels per km2. Small fish will also be examined to see whether they have any plastic in their stomachs.

The crew found that the plastic in the ocean is sometimes so small that it will probably be very difficult to clean it up. It possibly makes more sense to concentrate on the sources of the contamination or on the areas where the plastic is still found in high concentrations (estuaries, beaches, ports etc.).

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