Sea Education Association (SEA) is preparing to conduct the first-ever research expedition dedicated solely to examining the accumulation of plastic marine debris in the North Atlantic Ocean. The expedition, scheduled to begin in June, will expand upon a 20-year data set previously collected by SEA that reveals a region of extensive plastic pollution in a narrow latitude band in the western North Atlantic Ocean. This trip will explore an area southeast of Bermuda that, it is hypothesized, is an extension of the high plastic pollution region defined by more than 200 previous SEA voyages in the Western North Atlantic. Observations from those trips indicate the area has large concentrations of plastic debris comparable to the region of the Eastern North Pacific Ocean dubbed the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch.
The expedition is funded by the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation (NFWF) and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Marine Debris Program, and is in collaboration with the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and Woods Hole Sea Grant. The cruise, tentatively scheduled for June 10-July 14, will take place on the SSV Corwith Cramer, SEA’s 134-foot brigantine-rigged sailing oceanographic research vessel. The crew will consist of 11 professional mariners and up to 22 additional participants, many of them alumni of SEA’s core academic program, SEA Semester.