Near The Center of Sargasso Sea

Yesterday we found a windrow filled with patches of sargassum and plastic. Everything you could imagine finding in your local department store was bobbing in the sea, the EASTERN GARBAGE PATCH.

 

Near The Center of Sargasso Sea

Posted on February 04, 2010 in Blog

 

Near The Center of Sargasso Sea

 

We’re near the center of the Sargasso Sea at 28N,50W. It’s just about as far from land that you can get in the North Atlantic. Yesterday we found a windrow filled with patches of sargassum and plastic. Everything you could imagine finding in your local department store was bobbing in the sea, the EASTERN GARBAGE PATCH.

 

Near The Center of Sargasso Sea

 

Then we came upon a bucket. Anna and John brought it aboard, only to find something violently wriggling inside. There was a trigger fish far larger than the opening of the bottle! Who know how long it had been in there, destined to be entombed there. We found plenty more pieces of plastic – toothbrush, crates, buckets, bottle caps, shoes, glove, plenty of fishing gear, and a boxing mouthpiece. “What are you going to do with the fish?” someone asked. I explained that one question we want to find out is, “Who is eating plastic bottles?” We would keep the fish for stomach analysis, but only if I promised not to waste the fillets, which we later ate for dinner. 

 

Near The Center of Sargasso Sea

 

Trigger fish have a really bad overbite. The teeth of a trigger fish are designed for biting little things. They have small sharp teeth that can snatch a shrimp from the sargassum, or a barnacle from floating debris, or a triangular fragment off a plastic bottle. Looking closely at the bite marks on a plastic bottle, one can see two little dimples above the triangular bite. These are the two upper teeth. The lower teeth, oriented to form a sharp triangular edge, rip a fragment off the bottle. 

 

Near The Center of Sargasso Sea

 

Though we haven’t observed this, the teeth seem to match the bite marks. There are no other fish present. I don’t think small birds or turtles have the power to be contenders for this feat either. I’m confident we’ve identified another species of fish mistaking our plastic waste for food. One more reason why we need to rethink how we use plastic.

5 Gyres



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