In summer 2009, SEAPLEX scientists netted animal inhabitants of the Eastern Pacific Garbage Patch including myctophid fish (top), flying fish (middle), and squid--commingled with ubiquitous bits of plastic.
Researchers are keen to learn how the massive influx of plastic pieces in recent decades affects area animals, from larger creatures such as fish and birds--which swallow toxic plastic--to tiny organisms such as bacteria or plankton. The plastic may also be hosting invasive bacteria or other species, researchers say.
Many pieces are about the size of small marine animals--a potential problem. "Any sort of net technology that you'd use to pull out plastic 'confetti' is obviously going to capture a lot of native species as well," SEAPLEX member Jesse Powell said.
Photograph courtesy Scripps Institution of Oceanography