Open Ocean Filthy Algal Bloom Congealed Around Plastic Trash

On the way back from the purse sein fishing carnage, I encountered this.

Red algae feeding off trash. Huge underwater clouds of it.

Algae feeding off organic food waste mixed in with assorted plastic trash, probably chucked overboard by a passing ship.

The location was approximately LAT 04:07 NORTH / LONG 091:28 WEST, in the vicinity of the northern Galapagos Islands. This is more or less where the Equatorial Counter Current lies.

A 'hot zone' for fishing because this is exactly where the cool waters of the Northern Pacific meet the warm waters of the Tropical Pacific.

A perfect breeding ground for an algal bloom of red algae. There were few fish to be seen in the filthy underwater 'cloud', and it just felt like a wrong place to be. It felt like a dead zone. 

After not seeing much floating plastic trash in the Eastern Pacific, all the way from the region of the Line Islands in Eastern Kiribati and the 'Isles Marquises' of French Polynesia to Costa Rican waters, it was a shock to suddenly run into so much of plastic filth all in one go. And believe me I was looking hard.

The 'top side' view. Long brown streaks of the stuff, hundreds of metres long. At first I was hesitant about getting into the goop, but after leaning over the edge of the boat to touch the algae, I realized that it wasn't irritating my skin. So I decided to take the plunge.

I was very careful not to swallow any of it, and I gave the deep inside of my ears a good clean later.

On further analysis of the sample collected, I decided to crack out my macro lens. I had bought it along for precisely this kind of thing.

If anyone can tell me the scientific name of these strange marine organisms, I would be most grateful. 

From my limited experience, apart from this small corner of the Pacific, I would say that the South Pacific Gyre is generally cleaner than the North Pacific Gyre.

Plastics in the Pacific. A fascinating story to be continued.


All images and text © Alex Hofford / Image Solutions Ltd. 2011 | Web design in Hong Kong by Ugli © 2011