A blog set out to explore, archive & relate plastic pollution happening world-wide, while learning about on-going efforts and solutions to help break free of our addiction to single-use plastics & sharing this awareness with a community of clean water lovers everywhere!

Monday, June 2, 2014

5 Gyres To Study Ocean Plastics Off Bermuda

Published in Bernews May 29, 2014 | 1 Comment
 
On the heels of a successful plastic microbead campaign and four years of sailing the world’s oceans to complete the first global assessment of microplastics, the 5 Gyres Institute is returning to Bermuda to embark on a new mission to survey microplastics in the North Atlantic Subtropical Gyre and the subpolar ‘Viking Gyre’, yet to be studied for plastics.

A spokesperson said, “The expedition will embark on June 8, 2014 from St. George’s, Bermuda, sailing with a crew of 14 professional sailors, scientists, advocates, artists, filmmakers, photographers, and journalists northeast to Iceland. 5 Gyres co-founder and Research Director Dr. Marcus Eriksen will serve as expedition leader and principle investigator.

Dr. Eriksen said, “5 Gyres is on the frontier of oceanic plastic pollution, reaching beyond the North Pacific to discover garbage patches around the world. We’re always striving to learn more about how plastics affect ocean ecosystems, which brings us to monitor remote seas, like the area south of Iceland. These waters are where microplastics, including the microbeads we found in the Great Lakes, likely find their final resting place. We’re going there to find out.”

“5 Gyres has already seen positive change occur from their unique approach of utilizing scientific data to drive solutions to plastic pollution. On other expeditions to the Great Lakes, 5 Gyres discovered high concentrations of plastic microbeads traced back to personal care products that use beads as exfoliants, such as facial scrubs and other cosmetics. This data, published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, is the basis for 5 Gyres’ advocacy campaign to ‘Ban The Bead.’

Carolynn Box, a 5 Gyres Research Coordinator who will also join the expedition, said, “These products are designed to be washed down the drain, often escaping sewage treatment, which means they’ll eventually find their way to the ocean. We’ll be on the lookout for microbead pollution as well as the typical, photo-degraded plastic that blights our oceans.”

“Thus far, armed with irrefutable data, 5 Gyres has successfully worked with several of the companies that manufacture these products to agree to a voluntary phase out.”

Stiv Wilson, the 5 Gyres Associate Director who has headed the ‘Ban The Bead’ campaign, said,

“Though voluntary phase-out is a good first step, we realized that we needed to take a legislative approach to ensure that these plastic beads are eliminated from commerce. We’d love to see Bermuda merchants voluntarily phase out products that contain these beads, as a model for other island nations.”

“5 Gyres has successfully introduced legislation in several American states, and the policy is on the way to passage.

“In addition to searching for microbeads, 5 Gyres will be researching the subsurface distribution of microplastics and the impact of plastics on foraging fish, and testing new collection equipment at sea.

Dr. Eriksen said, “We’ll be studying the water column to look at plastics below the waves, as well looking at the toxins this plastic absorbs, what kind of fish are eating them, and how this might affect a major food source for humans worldwide.”

Dr. Eriksen said, “Research is costly at sea. When we have the opportunity to do our work, I seek collaborations with the global scientific network, collecting samples for my colleagues who concentrate on related fields of study to plastic pollution. With this partnerships, we can further our scientific understanding of plastic pollution while managing the costs associated with data collection in the most remote parts of the world.”

“There will be several opportunities for the public in Bermuda to join the 5 Gyres team and crew to learn more about plastic pollution:
  • On June 5, 5 Gyres will work with Bermudian scientists and volunteers at Keep America Beautiful, a long time collaborator of 5 Gyres, to conduct beach surveys at various locations around the island.
  • On the evening of June 5, 5 Gyres will give a lecture at BIOS from 4.00pm through 6.30pm that will be free and open to the public.
  • On June 6, the team will conduct more beach surveys and will host an evening fundraiser/cocktail party at BUEI [please contact 5 Gyres for details].
  • On June 8, The Viking Gyre Expedition will embark from St. George’s, sailing for three weeks and conducting research as they sail for Iceland, hoping to arrive by the end of June.
“For details on events or to get involved with our beach survey, interviews, and high-resolution images please contact Stiv Wilson, Associate Director, 5 Gyres, via email at stiv@5gyres.org or via telephone at 503-913-7381.

“For information on how to participate in beach surveys, please contact Anne Hyde, Executive Director, Keep Bermuda Beautiful, via email at kbb@northrock.bm.”

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