In the Gyres

Gyres are major spirals of ocean-circling currents. They occur north and south of the equator. There are five major ocean-wide gyres—the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific, and Indian Ocean gyres.1

Oceanic "Garbage Patch" Not Nearly as Big as Portrayed in Media [ScienceDaily, 1/5/2011]

Many news stories have reported varying concentrations of floating marine debris in several of the oceans gyres. According to NOAA:

“Fishermen and others who have sailed the area have reported ‘patches’ of concentrated floating debris. Relative to the expanse of the North Pacific Ocean, sightings of large debris items or large concentrations of debris are not very common. Most of the reports we have received and studies that have been conducted report that the observation of large items that are visible from a ship’s deck are few and far between. A majority of the debris observed in the [area] is small plastic pieces. Small debris pieces are difficult to see due to their size, and a majority of these pieces are suspended at or just below the surface of the water, thus making it difficult to observe.”

Numerous scientists and others have attempted to measure the amount of debris, resulting in wildly varying estimates. Regardless of the estimates, there is widespread agreement that litter does not belong in the ocean, and that more resources should be aimed at preventing trash from entering the marine environment in the first place.


1 NOAA Ocean Service Education