Plastic pollution in the South Pacific subtropical gyre

Mar Pollut Bull. 2013 Mar 15;68(1-2):71-6. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2012.12.021. Epub 2013 Jan 13.


Plastic marine pollution in the open ocean of the southern hemisphere is largely undocumented. Here, we report the result of a (4489 km) 2424 nautical mile transect through the South Pacific subtropical gyre, carried out in March-April 2011. Neuston samples were collected at 48 sites, averaging 50 nautical miles apart, using a manta trawl lined with a 333 μm mesh. The transect bisected a predicted accumulation zone associated with the convergence of surface currents, driven by local winds. The results show an increase in surface abundance of plastic pollution as we neared the center and decrease as we moved away, verifying the presence of a garbage patch. The average abundance and mass was 26,898 particles km(-2) and 70.96 g km(-2), respectively. 88.8% of the plastic pollution was found in the middle third of the samples with the highest value of 396,342 particles km(-2) occurring near the center of the predicted accumulation zone.

Publication types

  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Environmental Monitoring
  • Pacific Ocean
  • Plastics / analysis*
  • Seawater / chemistry*
  • Waste Products / analysis*
  • Waste Products / statistics & numerical data
  • Water Movements
  • Water Pollutants / analysis*
  • Water Pollution / statistics & numerical data*


  • Plastics
  • Waste Products
  • Water Pollutants