They have uncovered plastic packing straps, foam fishing buoys, a can of mixed nuts from Korea, as well as porpoises, killer whales, sea otters and bald eagles. They are the 14-member international team of scientists, artists and educators that launched Expedition Gyre — a collaboration between the Anchorage Museum and Alaska SeaLife Center, in partnership with several national and Alaska-based organizations — on June 7 to study the global marine debris crisis from southwest Alaska.
Stony Brook University research professor Carl Safina, also founding president of Blue Ocean Institute, is heading the expedition with Howard Ferren from the Alaska SeaLife Center. The expedition also includes representatives from the Smithsonian Institution, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, National Geographic, Alaska Marine Stewardship Foundation, Anchorage Museum and Ocean Conservancy.
Crew member Nick Mallos, a conservation biologist and marine debris specialist, wrote in a recent Ocean Conservancy blog: “The scale and magnitude of Alaska’s marine debris problem is unlike any other I’ve experienced. The state’s 45,000-mile coastline has myriad coves and pocket beaches that capture massive quantities of debris, underscoring the fact that even the most isolated areas of our planet are not immune to the problems of ocean trash.”