8/10/09 4:30 am – I am James Leichter, faculty advisor on the SEAPLEX cruise and an Associate Professor at Scripps Institution of Oceanography. I’ve been to sea many times over the course of my professional and graduate careers, but this is my first trip this far from the coastal zone, and first time in the Pacific Gyre. We have now traveled just over 1,000 km (620 miles) due west of the first station where we found plastic pieces in the surface manta tows. We have now found plastic in every tow, 28 out of 28 manta tows since the one on Aug. 6, when the first pieces were found. While the large pieces of debris that are recognizable from the ship – things like detergent bottles, milk crates, toothbrushes – appear relatively spread out, when we collect samples from the surface layer using the manta nets, there appears to be a nearly continuous stream of small particles. The vast majority of the pieces are small bits that are about the same size as the larger of the planktonic organisms – such as the the fish larvae and small siphonophores.
Previous pictures have shown fish eggs attached to pieces of plastic. Here are some flying fish eggs that were found attached to a bird feather, a much more natural settlement site. Photo taken by Jim Leichter.