Friday, February 15, 2008

Our noon position:Latitude: 35 45.287 North Longitude: 138 34.245 West

Valentines evening. Captain and crew are relaxing over an Indian meets Italian feast – lemon lentil soup, cashew rice, and homemade bread sticks with garlic and Parmesan. We’re celebrating our last day of work before we set sail for Long Beach - and praying for some wind to take us there. The high that has so graced us with calm seas and idyllic sampling weather will not, unfortunately get us home……

This morning we came across another windrow – a thin, visible line of debris winding past our boat. In less than an hour, we pulled up 3 fishing floats, 2 hagfish traps, a mess load of debris, and 2 rope boluses. And right there, trapped in this mare’s nest of mismatched rope, was the fish you see here–entanglement captured.

And the tofu container here was covered with fish eggs - its easy to see how an unsuspecting creature might chomp on this hoping for some caviar. Both images are clear examples of how our trash endangers marine creatures...

...As well as humans. Here Anna and Marcus, sporting hagfish traps, appear in grave danger of losing their sanity. Too many afternoons spent pondering marine debris…..

We completed our last two samples today, wrapping up the replication of Algalita’s 1999 research. The chance to repeat this study 10 years later was truly a golden opportunity. We will return to Los Angeles with a vessel full of research material, a set of new questions to answer, and an even clearer sense of the enormity of this issue. While its too early to draw any conclusions, we can safely say that the mass and number of plastic particles per area of sea surface has increased dramatically. The predictable trend is one of rapid accumulation of plastic marine debris, which parallels the increase in production and consumption of disposable plastics worldwide.

We’ve also spent a lot of time discussing how to communicate this issue effectively to the public. From the questions that come in daily about why we can’t just clean it up, it’s clear we have a ways to go. One angle we’re planning to explore further is how ingestion of plastic may impact the marine food chain – and by extension, us.

Our very last trawl was a night sample that came up with another 20 Myctophids. The image in the glass collection jar looks like an aquarium of bioluminescent fish in pool of plastic soup. The question on everyone’s mind is, “Does plastic debris, as well as the organic pollutants that plastic contains, contaminate the fish?” We packed the fish in our onboard freezer for analysis of ingested plastic and bioaccumulation of toxins in some organs. Scientists, policy makers and the general public want to know if plastic marine debris is a human health issue. This research will investigate toxin migration up the food chain.

A few more comments from yesterday that we never addressed:

Daren, great to hear you were so inspired by this issue! Keep in touch, we’d love to see your research paper when you’re through!

Another student from West Lafayette wanted to know what skills or experience one needs to go on a trip like this one. First and foremost, a genuine passion and interest in the issue is key. If you’ve got this, you’ll have no problems picking up the skills and experience. Some areas that might help: basic boating and safety, basic marine science and species identification, some previous sailing experience, photography or video skills always come in handy… And the ability to survive with little sleep- or at least not mind getting up at all hours for sail changes, trawling, and the like.

To all of our students and readers out there – send us your good thoughts for wind! Or start blowing really really hard…Aloha and gracias from the Captain and Crew of ORV Alguita!


Sr. Chief said...

I should think Jeff's Mom's sigh of relief when your later than normal blog posting showed up, should be sufficient to fill your sails. We will keep good thoughts about fair winds to bring you home before you have to get too creative with the food menus.

Megaladon said...

I've been following your reports closely for a few weeks now, and I'm really glad I discovered this place. My only complaint is that I would love to be able to view the photos at a larger size. Many of them often have fine details that are difficult to discern at a smaller size.

Thanks for all you do!

Deter said...

Po wants Wopster (Herb) to call the US Coast Guard to alert the US Navy on Alguita's position. She is concerned about the shooting down of the satellite and whether the crew of the Alquita is anywhere near where the toxic fuel may descend. I think you guys may be well east of the "shoot out" but I am following orders from my land based captain, Capt. Po.


sharon said...

In response to the alarming article by Captain Moore that I read a month or so ago on the internet, I have started a simple community campaign called the Green T-Bag Project. Basically we are turning t-shirts into reusable shopping bags or T-BAGS so that one never has to accept another plastic bag. Information on this project and how you can participate whether you are an individual, group or community will be on my blog The site is still in development and I hope to have all the free for the taking information for you to join us in this endeavor within the week. We can't solve the plastic problem but we can start. Thank you to the crew of the Alguita and to Captain Moore, your voice is being heard. I will be looking forward to your safe journey home.

Kaisa said...

I was reading your response to my question about qualifications for projects similar to this, and am I correct in understanding that one doesn't need to be a marine biologist to have a job like this? By the way, the food on the ORV Alguita sounds great! And thanks for elaborating on the way the tracking on the ghost nets works.

West Lafayette High School
Grade 9

weeber said...

we will be sure to ply you with fresh lettuce and other farmer's market treats when you get back -- yipee!