Historic microplastics problem revealed | EMBRC

Historic microplastics problem revealed

2018.10.23

Historic microplastics problem revealed

Marine creatures living in the deepest parts of the ocean have been feeding on microplastic particles for at least four decades, a study has revealed. 

Researchers at the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS) in Oban delved into the institute’s archived samples from the Rockall Trough, an area of deep sea off the west coast of Scotland, to assess the extent of microplastic ingestion in the stomachs of bottom-dwelling starfish and brittle stars.

Traces of eight different plastics, including polyester and nylon, were found in the stomachs of specimens that lived more than 2,000 metres below the ocean surface between 1976 and 2015 – and the levels of ingestion were similar throughout that period.

Across the time series, scientists found that nearly half of the starfish and brittle stars sampled had ingested microplastics, defined as small pieces of plastic less than 5 millimetres in size. When ingested by sea creatures, microplastics may be retained in their bodies and passed up the food chain.

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Katrina, Exter | Belgium | Flanders Marine Institute (VLIZ)

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