· · ·

Our oceans are turning into plastic

ocean-polluted-with-pops

Last month researchers from the 5 Gyres Institute in Santa Monica, California, and the Algalita Marine Research Foundation in Long Beach, California, sailed into Piriápolis, Uruguay. They had just completed the third leg of the first expedition ever to study plastic pollution in the South Atlantic subtropical gyre. In every single trawl, the team discovered plastic.

"This issue has only recently come to the public's attention," says Anna Cummins, co-founder of 5 Gyres. "We're trying to document the issue and get baseline information because there is such a scarcity of data."

There are still significant gaps in the data the crew can collect, however. The nets that they use cannot capture plastic particles that are smaller than one-third of a millimetre across. After a certain size these particles just disappear. Trawling gathers only plastic particles from surface waters. Different kinds of plastic may be suspended at different depths – a dreadful rainbow of rubbish spanning the ocean from top to bottom – but no one has done the research to find out.

Every flake of plastic cup or shard of toothbrush handle is a sponge for persistent organic pollutants (POPs) – potentially hazardous compounds that do not degrade easily and cling to any hard surface they find. The fate of all this plastic determines not only the health of marine life, but also our own – if fish are feasting on these toxic morsels, then we probably are too.

5 Gyres researchers are currently investigating  whether surface-feeding fish are ingesting plastic – and if so, what that does to them.  By sampling the water and plastic, researchers used a special net to collect around 660 lanternfish – a ubiquitous family of small bioluminescent fish that make up around 65 per cent of all deep sea fish biomass. Lanternfish inhabit the dim depths during the day, but swim to the surface at night to feed so it would probably had some plastic in the guts. Water and plastic samples for the presence of  POPs.


Plastic in the ocean would not be so worrisome if only certain areas were polluted, but it appears to travel everywhere. It's hard to pin down exactly where the remains of a candy wrapper blown out to sea in China will eventually drift.  For at least two decades oceanographers have deployed thousands of Lagrangian drifting buoys, which are designed to map surface ocean currents rather than wind patterns or waves.  Wherever the buoys gather most densely  is also where plastic particles should cluster. And that is what the researchers have found so far – all our plastic waste meets and circulates in the gyrating wastes of the ocean.

More surprising is that despite the lure of the gyres, the buoys – and, therefore, probably plastic in general – really get around. What researchers have established so far is that the plastic in the oceans is persistent and pervasive. Investigations into what all this pollution means for wildlife and people are just getting started, but the early signs are not reassuring. (NewScientist)

Toxic Organic Pollutants

If you value what we do here, create your ad-free account and support our journalism.

Share:

Related articles



Your support makes a difference

Dear valued reader,

We hope that our website has been a valuable resource for you.

The reality is that it takes a lot of time, effort, and resources to maintain and grow this website. We rely on the support of readers like you to keep providing high-quality content.

If you have found our website to be helpful, please consider making a contribution to help us continue to bring you the information you need. Your support means the world to us and helps us to keep doing what we love.

Support us by choosing your support level – Silver, Gold or Platinum. Other support options include Patreon pledges and sending us a one-off payment using PayPal.

Thank you for your consideration. Your support is greatly appreciated.

Sincerely,
Teo Blašković

$5 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$50 /year

$10 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$100 /year

$25 /month

  • Ad-free account
  • Clean user interface and fast browsing
  • Direct communication with us via chat and email
  • Suggest new features, content and applications
  • Early access to new apps and features

$200 /year

You can also support us on Patreon

support us on patreon

or by sending us a one-off payment using PayPal:


Commenting rules and guidelines

We value the thoughts and opinions of our readers and welcome healthy discussions on our website. In order to maintain a respectful and positive community, we ask that all commenters follow these rules:

  • Treat others with kindness and respect.
  • Stay on topic and contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way.
  • Do not use abusive or hateful language.
  • Do not spam or promote unrelated products or services.
  • Do not post any personal information or content that is illegal, obscene, or otherwise inappropriate.

We reserve the right to remove any comments that violate these rules. By commenting on our website, you agree to abide by these guidelines. Thank you for helping to create a positive and welcoming environment for all.

2 Comments

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *