This is not the gyre you are looking for

This photo is all over the internets as a photo of the North Pacific Trash Gyre:

But a clever person on Flickr found the original image, and this is neither trash nor the central Pacific nor a gyre. The land is Japan and the swirl is a large eddy with a plankton bloom in it. The bloom is probably a single-celled algae called “coccolithophores” which are known to form large blooms that turn the water pale blue.

Eddies commonly break off of the Kuroshio Current near Japan (it’s the Gulf Stream of the Pacific) and go swirling about on their own for weeks or months, trapping plankton inside. Since plastic is transparent and does not reflect much light, the tiny bits of trash in the North Pacific Gyre cannot currently be seen by satellite.


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14 Responses to This is not the gyre you are looking for

  1. Chris B says:

    One of the really big problems with so many issues facing us today is the proliferation of bad science. We have people claiming a trash pile the size of Texas and no data to back it up. A 6 to 1 ratio and no data to back it up, what are people that really are looking for facts to think when the “facts” are as trashy as the trash?

    I read one person claiming 90% of the marine life in the ocean is gone. Where is the scientific data to back that up?

    If a person uses the United Nations to support any data, I would warn them to be very careful. Most information from the UN is fiction and put together to serve their own agenda. The UN has a very anti human agenda even if the claim otherwise. A case in point is the calling for protection of fisheries around the world while actively promoting 25,000 miles of drift net being put into the water every day.
    These curtains of death, because the UN promotes a very small net opening for underdeveloped countries but not for developed countries, are the leading cause of depletion of fish stocks in most areas of the world.

    While individual countries have, some effect on this it is mostly the underdeveloped countries having the biggest negative effect on the oceans. The examples of DDE, DDT, and PCB being used are all from countries with low degrees of industrial development.
    Ask yourself how long ago were these banned in the United States and what is the half-life of these chemicals? The DDT used in the US has disappeared from the environment because it has degraded over the years. The statement it is a problem in this garbage pile in the Pacific would place this in other countries besides the US. A huge amount of the plastic coming from the western Americas washes offshore from Mexico, is this adequately researched? I have found nothing to show it is. If there is research on the then it should be posted.

    Most of what I see posted is just plain bad science and it is picked up as facts when it is nothing of the sort.
    We have an important issue ahead of us; we do not need this confused by wild speculation and just plain lies.

  2. Eric says:

    Miriam-thanks fir providing the debunk info on this image.

    Chris-Good to see you’re glad that Miriam and her team of scientists are going out there to collect more imperical data needed to make a scientific assessment of the patch. Especially since that are being pretty darn open, sharing it what with tweets, blogs etc. Like you, I look forward to seeing the updates as they reach the gyre.

  3. […] Scientifically, you can count me as one of the skeptics, in that I want to see good data before I say this is the worst thing in the world. [Our research on the gyres] has been the reverse of a lot of other environmental issues. Certainly no one is in favor of plastic in the ocean, but in terms of actual science the evidence is really not yet there. On the internet there’s a lot of misinformation, which goes beyond what we can realistically say right now. My favorite piece of misinformation is a picture that purports to be a satellite picture of the trash, but is actually a natural plankton bloom off of Japan. […]

  4. […] finding a solution. Misinformation on this issue is rampant – for example, I’ve waged a personal war against this image, which is neither trash nor a […]

  5. […] finding a solution. Misinformation on this issue is rampant – for example, I’ve waged a personal war against this image, which is neither trash nor a […]

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