A Man Swam Through The Great Pacific Garbage Patch And Here's What He Found

A Man Swam Through The Great Pacific Garbage Patch And Here’s What He Found

A man who swam across the Great Pacific Garbage Patch discovered it was teeming with marine life.

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area between Hawaii and California where a large amount of trash, fishing gear, and other marine debris has accumulated. And until now, the patch has been attracting attention for its large buildup of plastic and little else.

Long-distance swimmer Ben Lecomte was swimming from Hawaii to California when he took samples from the patch, for scientists to analyze.

At first, samples taken just before he entered the patch came back nearly empty.

However, after Lecomte ventured further into the area, researchers discovered a thriving neuston ecosystem living on the surface of the water. Bizarre creatures discovered included blue sea dragons, purple snails and men of war – a creature closely related to jellyfish – and blue button jellyfish.

Neustons are blue marine organisms that live on the surface of the ocean. Scientists currently know very little about these organisms and where they are found. There is currently only one area in the world where a high abundance of neuston is known, in the North Atlantic garbage patch in the Sargasso Sea.

The findings were published in a preprint study co-authored by Rebecca Helm, an assistant professor at the University of North Carolina. Preprints are studies that have not been reviewed by scientists to assess the validity of the paper, so their conclusions should be taken with caution.

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Big trash cleaning

While Great Pacific Garbage Patch research largely revolves around efforts to clean up plastic, Helm said. Newsweek that these results are in fact interesting in themselves.

“They’re a possible clue that there’s a lot more going on in the bins than we ever imagined. And maybe independent of the plastics. I think that in itself is fascinating!” she says.

Helm said that at present there is “no evidence” that these animals interact with plastics.

“Future plastics research should look at everything on the surface, not just plastics. Plastic on the surface of the ocean was first discovered because a scientist was looking for life on the surface, but our knowledge of surface plastics has far exceeded our knowledge of surface life. It is time to close that gap,” Helm said.

“Many of these species are eaten by fish, turtles and birds. They are an important part of the global ecosystem.”

Environmental organizations such as The Ocean Cleanup are committed to ridding the trash of its plastic. However, their methods have been the subject of some controversy. Following these findings, some researchers have expressed concern that the trawls used by the organization to collect the plastic could harm the ecosystem.

On Twitter, Helm said organizations should focus on stopping the patch from enlarging, rather than using methods that could harm its wildlife.

As these results are preliminary, there is still much to learn, Helm said. The study says that more ecological studies of neustonic species will allow scientists to “better understand” how they contribute to the wider ecosystem.

sea ​​pollution
Plastic and microplastic bottles floating in the open ocean. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is an area between Hawaii and California where a large amount of trash, fishing gear and other marine debris has accumulated.
Getty

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