Faceless Fish and 200 Years of Trash Found in World's First Survey of Deep Sea Abyss
The international crew on board The Investigator research vessel has pulled up some wonderfully bizarre specimens from a journey to the bottom of the sea, including a "faceless fish" that hasn't been seen since 1873.
The team, consisting of 40 scientists and support staff, are two weeks into a world's first exploration of the deep sea off Australia's western coast, in a mission called "Sampling the Abyss." The month-long expedition, led by Australia's Museums Victoria and the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization, aims to study abyss life at depths around 4,000 to 6,000 meters.
Chief scientist Tim O'Hara from Museums Victoria told AFP this area is "the most unexplored environment on earth."
"The data gathered on this trip will be crucial to understanding Australia's deep-sea habitats, their biodiversity and the ecological processes that sustain them," O'Hara said in a statement. "This will assist in its conservation and management and help to protect it from the impacts of climate change, pollution and other human activity."
So what kind of otherworldly creatures call the deepest parts of the ocean home?
Since the voyage began on May 15, the scientists have collected bright red spiky rock crabs, puffed-up coffinfish, blind sea spiders and deep sea eels, according to AFP.
"We've seen some awesome stuff," Di Bray from Museums Victoria told Australia's ABC News.
"On the video camera we saw a kind of chimaera that whizzed by—that's very, very rare in Australian waters," Bray continued. "We've seen a fish with photosensitive plates that sit on the top of its head, tripod fish that sit up on their fins and face into the current."
But Bray said the "highlight" was the faceless fish found off Jervis Bay at a depth of 4,000 meters.
"It's this fish with nostrils and a mouth and no face," she explained. "Apparently, it's got eyes way under the surface but really you can't see any eyes."
The last time this fish was caught was in the 1870s by the scientists onboard the HMS Challenger.
"So, it's not a new species, but it's still an incredibly exciting find, and we think ours is the largest one seen so far," a Blogging the Abyss post states. "Although very little is known about this strange fish without a face, it does have eyes—which are apparently visible well beneath the skin in smaller specimens. I doubt they'd be of much use though, so we've decided to call it the Faceless Cusk."
Blogging the Abyss: "It came from 4000 meters below the surface, where pressures are huge, the water is a mere 1⁰C, and the seafloor landscape is pretty barren!"John Pogonoski, CSIRO Australian National Fish Collection.
However, as SkyNews pointed out, there are plenty of other unusual specimens appearing at these depths.
"There's a lot of debris, even from the old steam ship days when coal was tossed over board," O'Hara said.
"We've seen PVC pipes and we've trawled up cans of paints," he continued. "It's quite amazing. We're in the middle of nowhere and still the sea floor has 200 years of rubbish on it."
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Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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