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Marine Debris

July 7, 2010

A research vessel tracks the ecological effects of plastic debris in the Atlantic Ocean.


An ocean of plastic…I’m Bob Hirshon and this is Science Update.

Plastic pollution is a big problem on land, but it also causes problems at sea. The Sea Education Association tracks plastic accumulation in the Atlantic Ocean near Bermuda. Chemical oceanographer Giora Proskurowski says the plastic damages the ecosystem at many levels. For instance, mammals can get entangled with the larger pieces.

GIORA PROSKUROWSKI (Sea Education Association):
As you start breaking down the plastics you start getting to the size pieces that birds and fishes might eat. Additionally, plastics act as a sponge for persistent organic pollutants in the upper ocean. Not to mention that there are poisonous chemicals also dissolved into plastics.

But he says the plastic may be creating new niches for some marine organisms.

You have these floating pieces of plastic that offer safe refuge for bacteria, for microbial life, and for small juvenile organisms.

I’m Bob Hirshon, for AAAS, the science society.