, ,

PRESS RELEASE: Crew Seats Available on Gyres Research Vessel

Crew Seats Available on Research Voyage to Investigate

Plastic Pollution and Debris from 2011 Japan Earthquake and Tsunami

 LOS ANGELES, Calif., Oct. 5, 2011—Scientists, educators and eco-adventurers are being offered the unprecedented opportunity to join a research expedition through the North Pacific Ocean littered with debris generated by the Japan tsunami of March 11, 2011. Rarely is such a monumental amount of material—tens of thousands of tons including cars, entire homes and boats—simultaneously thrust into the sea from a single location.

The 5 Gyres Institute and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (Algalita) have organized this expedition in collaboration with Pangaea Explorations to offer a 7,000-mile, high-seas voyage aboard the “Sea Dragon” sailing vessel from May 1 through July 1, 2012.

The Sea Dragon, a 72' Steel Hull sailing research vessel

The Sea Dragon, a 72' steel-hull sailing research vessel

The expedition’s first leg will sail from Kwajalein Atoll in the Marshall Islands through the area of the North Pacific Gyre commonly referred to as the “Western Garbage Patch” where little research has been conducted on plastic pollution.  The trip’s second leg will travel due east from Japan to Hawaii through the gyre, a vast vortex of ocean currents where plastic debris accumulates, to cross the “Japan Tsunami Debris Field.” Of great interest to the researchers is how fast the plastic trash is traveling across the gyre, how quickly or slowly it is decomposing, how rapidly marine life is colonizing on it, and whether it is transporting invasive species.

“We’ll be riding the same currents that are transporting cigarette lighters, bottle caps, children’s toys and all manner of other plastic pollution generated by the tsunami,” said expedition leader Marcus Eriksen, Executive Director and co-founder of the 5 Gyres Institute.

The 2012 voyage is open to anyone 18-years and older, regardless of sailing experience. Participants will travel with four professional crewmembers and will be expected to earn their sea legs and rough hands by hauling in lines and hoisting sails. They also will conduct research side-by-side with scientists, whether operating a trawl or collecting and cataloging plastic marine pollution and sea life.

Nine crew seats are available at a cost of $13,500 each for Leg 1 and $15,500 each for Leg 2.  A portion of the fare is tax deductible and net proceeds will support Algalita and 5 Gyres’ cooperative research and educational outreach.

This is the second eco-adventure conducted by Algalita. Its July 2011 voyage across the eastern North Pacific Gyre sold out.  5 Gyres has conducted seven research voyages across the five subtropical gyres, including the first expeditions to the three southern hemisphere gyres. Crewmembers included scientists, artists, journalists and environmentalists from around the world, such as Tim Silverwood of New South Wales.

Image of a gyre sample, the plastics found floating out in the middle of the N. Pacific Garbage Patch (gyre)

This gyre sample was taken during a July 2011 voyage across the North Pacific Gyre (Garbage Patch) by Algalita Marine Research Foundation. The sample includes micro-plastic bits as well as a toothbrush, two pen caps, a spray-bottle nozzle, and a small toy gorilla.

“After first hearing of the devastating state of the North Pacific Gyre, I immediately had a desire to witness it for my

self and tell the world about it,” Silverwood said. “Participating in leading scientific research with people from all over the world, all motivated to bring this issue to the mainstream, was incredible. The voyage has provided me so many opportunities to talk with media in the community and to schools about the issue and what we need to do to counter this problem.”

“Our vision is a global environment that is healthy, sustainable, and productive for all living creatures, free from plastic pollution,” says Algalita Executive Director, Marieta Francis.  “Understanding the impact of the Japan tsunami resultant debris will provide once-in-a-lifetime information to help us move closer to that vision.”

Algalita and 5 Gyres, both nonprofit organizations, have been leaders in pioneering research and increasing global awareness of plastic marine pollution. Algalita’s founder, Captain Charles Moore, brought attention to the “Eastern Garbage Patch” in the North Pacific Gyre in 1999.  5 Gyres continues to monitor plastic marine pollution in the “garbage patches” found in all five subtropical gyres.  Most of the plastic debris studied has been adrift for years, much of it broken down by the sun’s rays and ocean currents into small plastic particles.

For all participation requirements, sponsorship opportunities and to register, contact Jeanne Gallagher: (562) 598-4889;

5 Gyres logoAbout 5 Gyres Institute5 Gyres Institute is a nonprofit organization committed to meaningful change through research, education and community action. 5 Gyres disseminates its findings through lectures, publications and traveling exhibits, and raises awareness about plastic marine pollution through sailing expeditions across the world’s oceans.  For information on upcoming expeditions and exhibitions around the globe: (323)


Algalita Marine Research logoAbout Algalita Marine Research FoundationThe Algalita Marine Research Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Long Beach, CA, is dedicated to the protection of the marine environment and its watersheds through research, education, and restoration. Algalita conducts research and collaborative studies on the distribution, abundance and fate of marine plastic pollution and the potential harmful effects of plastics in the marine environment, including transference of toxins and their impact on human health; provides authoritative, educational findings to scientists, the general public, governmental agencies, and the private sector; collaborates with organizations working toward restoring the aquatic environment and ultimately eliminating plastic pollution. More information: (562) 598-4889;


Pangaea Exploration LogoAbout Pangaea Explorations:  Pangaea Explorations offers adventure sailing to actively strengthen the health of marine life through exploration, conservation and education work. Our mission is to inspire and develop a new generation of leaders in conservation science, communication, education, art and policy leadership. More information:

70 Miles of Flotsam & Radioactive Waste Dumped into the Pacific

You’d pretty much have to have been living on some other planet to be unaware of the 9-point earthquake and subsequent tsunami that rocked northern Japan a few weeks ago.  We won’t be boring you with rehashes of that tragic event.  But we do want to fill you in on the latest aftermath.  For example, there’s now a flotsam island some 70 miles long floating out into the Pacific, made up of houses, and plastics, bodies and cars, polluting as it goes, and creating dangerous hazards in the shipping lanes.  The U.S. Navy’s 7th fleet is keeping an eye on this latest mess, and describes that it covers more than 2.2 million square feet of ocean surface.  Experts estimate that the rubbish may take as much as two years to hit Hawaii.  It may be another year after that before it hits the U.S. West Coast.  Meanwhile, there’s a very real threat to ships large and small of hulls being breached, props being fouled, and marine mammals and other ocean creatures being adversely affected by this huge island of rubble.

This current will bring cars, homes, bodies, furniture and other debris to our shores.

While we’re on it, did you know that the Japanese government elected to dump over 11 milion liters (2.5 million gallons) of radioactive water into the Pacific ocean?  Yep, water that’s 500 times more radioactive than the legal limit was unceremoniously poured into the world’s oceans.  Just a couple days later, radioactive fish were found some 50 miles offshore.  “We had no choice,” they claim.  Sure ya did.  Barrel it up and bury it in YOUR back yard, until a combined effort of Japan and the rest of the world figures out what to do with it.  But because they didn’t want it in their back yard, they poured it into ours?  All due sympathy to the people of Japan during this tragedy, but it’s still not OUR nuclear plants that are melting down.  Junichi Matsumoto, of Japan’s TEPCO makes an attempt to justify the choice, saying “We think releasing water with low levels of radiation is preferable to allowing water with high levels of radiation to be released into the environment.”  That may be true, Mr. Matsumoto, but it wasn’t a binary situation.  You didn’t have to make that choice.  Nice try, but we’re not quite that lacking in logic.  Matsumoto claims that the urgency was from a leak they thought was happening.  But none of that stopped them from bottling the radioactive water and keeping it out of the Pacific.  Using the ocean as one’s dumping ground is never appropriate, but radioactive wastes are even more dangerous.  Potential results range from giving cancer to sea mammals and fish, to causing genetic mutations that could literally alter the entire food chain’s balances.

Taking this action at all was unacceptable.  Doing so without conferring with the rest of the world was simply too typical of the Japanese perspective that suggests the world exists for them to exploit anywhere and any way that they like.  We are not against the Japanese people.  We have a number of friends in and from Japan, and feel deeply for their circumstances.   That said, the nation of Japan continues to act with blatant disregard for marine life.  The nation issues permits to kill over a thousand whales each year for “research”, (not including the untold thousands of dolphins which need no permit.)  This whale hunting and killing takes place in Antarctic waters long ago set aside as marine sanctuary by the entire world.  They go there, we have been told, because the waters are cleaner, so the whale flesh will have less mercury.

The earthquake in Japan, and the aftermath which continues, is just one example of the ways in which a relatively small local event can have global repercussions.  We must, as a species, shift our perspective, our way of looking at the oceans.   This planet cannot survive (nor can we) if we continue to use it as our dumping grounds.

Can The Flotsam

The Can The Flotsam campaign had its start right alongside the beginnings of Protect The Ocean. We’re against ALL forms of pollution. This time, we’re taking the fight to the pollution, rather than waiting for pieces of it to drift onto the shore. PTO has been talking about the problem for years, but with the latest S.O.S., we realized that just talking about it wasn’t cutting it, and that with all of that plastic collecting out there in the Eastern Garbage Patch of the North Pacific, breaking down into tiny toxic pieces, we just couldn’t wait any longer for Somebody to do it.

So we’re looking for partners, helpers, volunteers, assistance any way we can get it. We’re looking for help in the single biggest ecological clean-up project ever! That’s right! We’re preparing to go out to that garbage patch and start picking it all up, hauling it back. What can be recycled will be. The rest will be disposed of, canned, so it can never get back to the ocean again.

Can The Flotsam has at least three prongs to it:

1) Get people to use natural cloth bags and to dispose of plastics properly (preferably by recycling, whenever possible).

2) Go out there, whatever it takes, and net, scoop, filter and haul as much plastic as humanly possible from the Eastern Garbage Patch.

3) Maintain the clean-up by returning to the area periodically to clean it up again. Accidents still happen, and we’re nowhere near neive enough to think that flotsam won’t show up there again. It has taken decades to get this bad, though, and resulted in millions of pounds of tiny toxic plastic. We’re simply going to have to keep on patroling and policing until things change. What we CAN’T afford to do is just leave it out there.

Additionally, we intend to aid Algalita Marine Research Foundation any way we can, as they work towards solutions for the existing toxicity in our increasingly synthetic oceans.

There’s a plastic garbage dump two times the size of Texas sitting out there in our oceans. Every day it sits there, it releases more toxic plastic particles into the water, killing marine life as it makes its way to our dinner tables.

We’ve sent out a S.O.S. on behalf of the oceans. Will you heed the call?