Hawaii scuba instructor finds plastic clogging Pacific

Published: Aug. 19, 2009 at 10:45 AM HST|Updated: Aug. 19, 2009 at 2:28 PM HST
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Drew Wheeler
Drew Wheeler

By Tracy Gladden - bio | email

HALEIWA (KHNL) - A Hawaii scuba instructor and underwater videographer takes a journey to the center of the ocean and finds it's covered in plastic trash.  Drew Wheeler went in search of trash and he found it floating in the most remote part of the Pacific Ocean.  It's often called, "the Pacific garbage patch".

"What I discovered is that any place that is calm for us to see what was in the water we saw plastic," Wheeler said.

He spent two months aboard the Algalita Marine Research Foundation's 50-foot ocean research vessel studying the Pacific garbage patch. "My impression is that there's not just a garbage patch anymore it's really just the entire Pacific Ocean is polluted with this plastic," he says, "There wasn't a concentrated patch anymore, that was the real eye opener for me."

Over the 7,000 mile journey, he and his team used a surface skimming troll device that filters the water with a net looking for plastic. "Out of all 42 trolls, not one of them came up without plastic," he said.

Drew found that billions and billions of tiny pieces of plastic are floating in our oceans and and animals are mistaking them for food. "the fish they buy in the market potentially has petroleum by products going through it's tissues," he said.

He says his voyage has provided proof of the increasing rate of plastic moving through our food chain. "A lot of the debris that we see is also plastic bag material that floats just below the surface," he said.

He says sea turtles mistake these plastic bags for jellyfish and eat them. To limit the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans use the three R's. Reduce the amount of plastic you actually buy by using your own containers. When you go to the grocery store instead of using non-recyclable plastic bags, bring your own reusable bags, and when you must use plastic, use a plastic alternative that's easily recyclable.

The more people know about the affects of plastic in our oceans, Drew believes, will lead to the changes needed.

"Those are the things that we can do as individual consumers is by making better choices in the products that we buy I hope we can find a way of solving it at some point because what I saw out there was really disgusting."

He says bringing awareness and talking story about the plastic debris clogging our oceans is the most important step to finding a solution.