Sea creatures in deepest parts of ocean found to have plastic fibres in their stomachs for first time
Original post on The Independent
Scientists found traces of manmade fibres and plastics in the stomachs of sea creatures living at the bottom of the deepest ocean on Earth, in a concerning world first. The shocking results show no part of the world’s oceans now remains untouched by human waste.
Scientists from Newcastle University tested crustaceans at the bottom of the Mariana Trench, known as Challenger Deep. At 10,890 metres below sea level it is the remotest part of the world’s oceans. Each creature was found to have ingested some form of manmade material, including the plastics Nylon, PVC, and PVA.
Dr Alan Jamieson, professor in marine ecology and the study’s lead, said the results were “immediate and startling”. “There were instances where the fibres could actually be seen in the stomach contents as they were being removed,” he said. “We felt we had to do this study given the unique access we have to some of the most remote places on Earth, and we are using these samples to make a poignant statement about mankind’s legacy.”
The team tested 90 crustaceans in the ultra-deep trenches spanning the Pacific Ocean – the Mariana, Japan, Izu-Bonin, Peru-Chile, New Hebrides and Kermadec trenches.
All were found to have creatures that had eaten some form of artificial fibre or plastic, ranging from 50 percent in the New Hebrides to 100 percent in the Mariana. Deep-sea animals which will eat “just about anything” are dependent on food raining down from the surface.
“Litter discarded into the oceans will ultimately end up washed back ashore or sinking to the deep-sea, there are no other options,” Mr Jamieson said. “Once these plastics reach the deep-sea floor there is simply nowhere else for them to go, therefore it is assumed they will simply accumulate in greater quantities.”
“This is a very worrying find. Isolating plastic fibres from inside animals from nearly 11km deep just shows the extent of the problem.”
“This is global,” he added.
Elena Polisano, Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace UK, told The Independent: “Plastic waste has been discovered just about everywhere. It’s in the Arctic, the middle of the Pacific, the bottom of the Marianas Trench, in whales, turtles and up to 90 percent of seabirds, and also in our table salt, our tap water and our beer.
“We’re producing more and more of the stuff, and it will last for centuries. This isn’t about irresponsible individuals littering, this is about an industry churning out trillions of single-use disposable plastic items – bags, bottles, packaging – with no thought for the consequences. We urgently need to rethink how we use plastic.”
More than eight million tonnes of plastic goes into the oceans every year. With an estimated 300 million tonnes of it now littering our seas, it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish by 2050.
It is thought our seas now contain about 51 trillion microplastic particles – 500 times more than the number of stars in our galaxy.
This pollution is harming more than 600 species worldwide amid what many are now regarding as the sixth mass extinction of life on Earth.