Great Pacific Garbage Patch Worries Researchers: Earth's 'Most Valuable Asset' Being Destroyed

Great Pacific Garbage Patch Worries Researchers: Earth's 'Most Valuable Asset' Being Destroyed

Researchers and environmentalists are worried over the potential harm that could be produced from the garbage that already has begun to wash ashore on the west coast of the United States.

After the tsunami last March that struck Japan killed thousands of people, a new concern has risen. The waste left over will hit beaches stretching from Alaska to California's northern coast, and that much of the debris will remain in a large ocean current referred to as the "Great Pacific Garbage Patch."

This reservoir of garbage circulates about 1,000 miles off the western United States and has been steadily increasing in size over the past several decades. But as some mariners explain, oceanic debris is not isolated to one area or one ocean.

"The debris is dispersed. We have gotten samples from the Indian Ocean, [and] the Atlantic," according to Captain Charles Moore of the Algalita Marine Research Organization. "There's plastic in all of these oceans."

But researchers agree that curtailing the amount of garbage and debris that enters our water systems is one of the single most important actions that need to be taken in order to ensure the health of aquatic ecosystems.

"I'm more concerned about our constant input of trash than I am about these one-time disasters," Miriam Goldstein, a graduate student at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, told the Los Angeles Times.

She continued: "We can't prevent terrible events like the tsunami, but dumping plastic into the ocean is something we can control and don't do very well."

The biggest challenge, advocates say, is educating the public of the vital role the oceans play. The general public does not realize the value oceans provide in terms of climate regulation and resources, such as food and air, they explained.

"If you put dollars and cents on those services, then we will be forced to from an economic argument to protect it … the oceans are actually the most valuable asset we have on this planet- people don't get that." Greg Stone, senior vice president and chief scientist for oceans with Conservation International, told