– Fishing nations especially contribute to garbage patches in the Pacific Ocean
Researchers took a closer look at a garbage patch in the North Pacific and found clues to the origin of the plastic.
Most of the debris in the North Pacific garbage patch can be traced back to five major fishing nations. Most of the plastic comes from Japanese, Chinese, South Korean, American and Taiwanese sources, according to researchers at Specialized magazine “Scientific Reports”. Tens of thousands of tons of plastic waste are currently floating in the North Pacific garbage patch. Much of it consists of fishing nets, ropes and hard plastic parts.
Millions of tons of plastic end up in the oceans every year. Sometimes rivers wash trash from land into seas, and sometimes plastic ends up directly in the oceans. While the majority of plastic waste likely accumulates mainly on coasts or on the sea floor, a smaller portion of plastic waste is carried by ocean currents and accumulates in so-called garbage eddies.
Collected more than 6000 pieces of hard plastic
Experts assume there are five large garbage patches. One of them is the North Pacific Garbage Patch: it symbolizes the impact of the widespread use and disposal of plastic in the world’s oceans. But where does the plastic that floats in the North Pacific garbage patch come from?
As part of a campaign by the Dutch non-profit organization The Ocean Cleanup, Laurent Lebreton’s research team collected more than 6,000 pieces of hard plastic (547 kg total) from the North Pacific garbage patch. The fragments were sorted and analyzed for their origin. Fishing nets and fishing gear for aquaculture accounted for 26 percent of all the finds analyzed. Floats, plastic floats, bottle caps, and household items such as containers, cans, and baskets can also be identified. However, a third of the litter cannot be assigned to an explicit category.
The research team discovered writing in a specific language on more than 200 plastic pieces. Chinese and Japanese were the most common languages, followed by English and Korean. With a total of 232 plastic pieces, the origin can be proven based on language, text, company name or logo. The five countries of origin with the largest amounts of plastic in the North Pacific Garbage Patch were Japan, China, Korea, the United States, and Taiwan. About a third of the waste examined came from Japan and China. The research team’s findings confirm previous studies from 2015.
It is likely that most of the hard plastic parts did not reach the sea via rivers or coastal cities, but directly to the sea by fishing activities.
The scientists used a computer model to understand how and where the plastic parts got into the sea. They found that the majority of the hard plastic parts most likely did not reach the sea via rivers or coastal cities, but rather reached the sea directly through fishing activities.
China, Japan, South Korea, the United States, and Taiwan are industrialized fishing nations in the North Pacific. They represented 87 percent of the simulated fishing activities that contributed to the North Pacific garbage patch in the study.