South Pacific marine life is being threatened by a garbage patch larger than Mexico

This is an archived article and the information in the article may be outdated. Please look at the time stamp on the story to see when it was last updated.

SOUTH PACIFIC -- South Pacific marine life may be in some serious trouble, and it`s all because of one thing: plastic.

A research team has discovered a massive swirling vortex of garbage off the coast of Chile and Peru. Basically, humans are polluting the waters, and those who live under the sea are the first to pay the price.

We`re talking about the discarded phone cases, bottle caps, food packaging, etc.

"I call it a plastic soup," says Captain Charles Moore. "If you think of the ocean as a liquid in a soup, we've gone from creamy to extra chunky."

Captain Moore of Algalita Marine Research and Education has been leading the team for months. He estimates the size of this garbage patch at about a million square miles across.  That`s one and a half times the size of Texas.

So, how does this happen?

A persistent high-pressure system drives the ocean currents, creating a vortex causing little bits of microplastics and other debris to collect in a central spot. Small fish come to the surface at night to feed on plankton, but eat the garbage instead. In their system, it acts like a buoy, and they can`t swim back down to the bottom.  These tiny fish ingest chemicals from the discarded plastics, then the larger fish eat them, thus perpetuating the problem.

Moore says, "We have to fear plastic for not only what it does to the marine environment, but what it's doing to us."

The solution is simple, and one we`ve heard for years-- Reduce. Reuse. Recycle.  Now we just have to practice what`s been preached.