Discover how plastic debris is affecting marine life in the Pacific Ocean


NARRATOR: In mid-Pacific between North America and Japan, scientist Nicole Agrikropolos is fishing out plastic rubbish from the water. Rubbish that - through people, the wind and rivers - has landed up in the ocean. She explains that this looks like part of a bottle, but now it's home for small crabs. Currents are gathering the plastic rubbish into a massive vortex here in the Pacific, like an underwater waste tip. Here we find a clump of old fishing nets. Mussels and other small creatures become entangled in the rubbish and are transported to regions they could never have reached on their own. On a research expedition, American scientists are examining the state of the Pacific Ocean, and they're stunned.

SCIENTIST 1: "We really continue to be surprised by the diversity of plastic out there. You name it, we're finding it. It's crates from beer, from soft drinks, from bottles of all sorts, shoes, toothbrushes, razors, whatever you imagine that we use that's plastic seems to be some place here in the ocean."

NARRATOR: A serious environmental problem that the crew of the expedition wants to investigate.

SCIENTIST 2: "I took a sample before we actually hit the gyre so we can calculate what is the quantification as we go up to the gyre itself and are we seeing an increase to the gyre or not."

NARRATOR: They drag the ocean with finely meshed nets and then analyze what they find. For example, 90 percent of this sample consists of plastic broken down into the tiniest particles by waves and ultraviolet rays. The researchers observe how jellyfish ingest plastic with devastating results.

SCIENTIST 3: "We saw very little signs of life. This is areally disturbing sample for us to find. As a scientist, we see something like that and it shows the detrimental impact of our trash on the ocean."

NARRATOR: Detailed analysis in the ship's lab confirms the suspicion that the rubbish is damaging animal and plant life. The scientists have found evidence of highly toxic substances such as insecticides and carcinogenic chlorine compounds deposited in the plastic particles. When these toxins are ingested by microorganisms at the end of the food chain they eventually end up being ingested by humans as well. Plastic rubbish in the ocean with fatal consequences - the ecological balance is shifting and the clock is ticking.

SCIENTIST 1: "The success of this expedition will be measured on how well we're able to spread the message of what is happening and create changes in people's behavior."

NARRATOR: The American research team have sailed back to California where these scientists will work on a solution for how to free the ocean of plastic rubbish.