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88% of the ocean surface contaminated with fragments of plastic

June 30 category:Environment
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88% of the ocean surface contaminated with fragments of plastic

Plastic invaded the oceans.

REUTERS / Juan Carlos Ulate

Micro-plastic fragments pollute up to 88% of the surface of the oceans and also affect the marine food chain by being taken up by fish and other animals, according to Spanish researchers.

"Ocean currents carry plastic objects reduced to very small fragments by solar radiation, and these micro-plastics, which can thus remain for hundreds of years, were detected in 88% of samples from the ocean surface at the Malaspina expedition in 2010, "said Andrés Cózar, a scientist from the upper Centre for Scientific Research (CSIC) of the University of Cadiz in Spain. He is the lead author of the research published in the Proceedings of the American Academy of Sciences (PNAS).

The expedition Malaspina, a project led by the CSIC, has more than 400 researchers from several countries. These scientists have collected nearly 200,000 samples of water, plankton, airborne particles and gases in 313 locations in the Indian Ocean, Pacific and Atlantic at different depths up to 6000 meters.

Contaminated food chain

This research has also confirmed the existence of five major areas of convergence, which accumulate these plastic waste on the surface, which correspond to five major water circulation around the globe.

However, the ocean surface can not be the only destination of these micro-debris since, as suggested by this study, much of this waste is probably found in the marine food chain, absorbed by marine animals or deposited in ocean floor.

These small plastic fragments often contain contaminants that can be swallowed and digested by marine animals. Moreover, the abundance of plastic waste floating in the ocean allows many small organisms to colonize areas they did not have access before, they said.

7000-35000 tons of waste, and an unknown impact

But according to these scientists "the greatest impact of this pollution on the marine ecosystem is unknown."

The main residues found in the waste are polyethylene and polypropylene polymers used in the manufacture of everyday objects such as bags, food and beverage containers, utensils or toys.

"The good news in all this is that the abundance of plastic waste is much less than expected but the big problem is where to go all micro-plastics used in the ocean," notes Carlos Duarte, coordinator of the Malaspina Expedition Expedition.

The researchers estimated the plastic waste floating on the oceans from 7000 to 35,000 tons with a greater concentration in the North Pacific, which represents 33-35% of the total.

Discharge into plastic waste oceans causes damage estimated at at least $ 13 billion, threatening marine life, tourism and fishing, warned the UN at the opening of its first meeting on the environment 23 June in Nairobi.

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