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Giant patch of ocean debris carries ghost nets, trash onto Island shores
A massive oceanic debris gyre has drifted south into Hawaiian waters, driving loads of derelict fishing gear and plastic trash onto Island beaches...
Debris drifts regularly with the circulating currents of the North Pacific, but much of it builds up in a quiet region of the ocean associated with a persistent high-pressure zone. When that zone moves south, the debris can get swept out to Hawai'i's shores...
The debris field has garnered increasing attention because of its threat to marine life. In March and April 2005, an NOAA aircraft spent three days flying over it with specialized electronic imaging gear provided by Airborne Technologies. More than 2,000 pieces of debris were found, along with more than 100 nets — one of them the length of three football fields, said NOAA Fisheries marine debris specialist Jake Asher, who flew on the mission...
Moore said that, ultimately, it may be the tiniest pieces of debris that have the biggest effect.
"The amount of plastic in the ocean is going up at a geometric rate. As you sail along, you see a chip, a chip, another chip, a plastic bag, neon tubes, fishing buoys, toothbrushes, hagfish traps, more chips. The pieces break down into smaller pieces, but they don't go away," Moore said. "The most insidious stuff is the stuff that's the same size as the plankton. Fish are eating it.
"There is no such thing as organic fish in the ocean anymore. They're all eating bits of plastic."