Quantcast
Environmental News for a Healthier Planet and Life

Surging Plastic Pollution in Oceans Revealed by Plankton Research Equipment

Oceans
Surging Plastic Pollution in Oceans Revealed by Plankton Research Equipment
A phytoplankton bloom in the Gulf of Alaska on June 9, 2016. NASA's Marshall Space Flight Center

By Julia Conley

The equipment was towed across millions of miles of ocean for six decades by marine scientists, meant to collect plankton — but its journeys have also given researchers a treasure trove of data on plastic pollution.

The continuous plankton reporter (CPR) was first deployed in 1931 to analyze the presence of plankton near the surface of the world's oceans. In recent decades, however, its travels have increasingly been disrupted by entanglements with plastic, according to a study published in Nature Communications on Tuesday.


"The message is that marine plastic has increased significantly and we are seeing it all over the world, even in places where you would not want to, like the Northwest Passage and other parts of the Arctic," Clare Ostle, a researcher at the Marine Biological Association in Plymouth, England, told The Guardian.

The CPR originated in northern England and has been continuously towed by boats across more than 6.5 million miles of ocean for more than 60 years.

It was first disrupted by plastic entanglement in 1957, when a fishing line got in its way. Eight years later the CPR ran into a plastic bag. The disruptions became increasingly common in the following years.

By the 1990s, two percent of the CPR's missions were disrupted by plastic pollution — mainly discarded nets and other fishing equipment, as well as other plastic products.

The rate of disruption is now between three and four percent, according to scientists at the Marine Biological Association and the University of Plymouth, who compiled the research.

The CPR is pulled by boats at a depth of about 22 feet (7 meters) below the ocean surface, where many marine creatures live — confirming earlier studies which have found that marine life has been increasingly threatened by plastic pollution.

"The realization that plastics are ubiquitous, and that the consequent health impacts are yet to be fully understood, has increased the awareness surrounding plastics," the report reads. "There is a need for re-education, continued research, and awareness campaigns, in order to drive action from the individual as well as large-scale decisions on waste-management and product design."

"The dataset presented here," the authors said, "is an important historical record for the continued monitoring of plastics in the ocean, and confirms the importance of actions to reduce and improve plastic waste."

Reposted with permission from our media associate Common Dreams.

A Brood X cicada in 2004. Pmjacoby / CC BY-SA 3.0

Fifteen states are in for an unusually noisy spring.

Read More Show Less

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

A creative depiction of bigfoot in a forest. Nisian Hughes / Stone / Getty Images

Deep in the woods, a hairy, ape-like man is said to be living a quiet and secluded life. While some deny the creature's existence, others spend their lives trying to prove it.

Read More Show Less

Trending

President of the European Investment Bank Werner Hoyer holds a press conference in Brussels, Belgium on Jan. 30, 2020. Dursun Aydemir / Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

By Jon Queally

Noted author and 350.org co-founder Bill McKibben was among the first to celebrate word that the president of the European Investment Bank on Wednesday openly declared, "To put it mildly, gas is over" — an admission that squares with what climate experts and economists have been saying for years if not decades.

Read More Show Less

A dwarf giraffe is seen in Uganda, Africa. Dr. Michael Brown, GCF

Nine feet tall is gigantic by human standards, but when researcher and conservationist Michael Brown spotted a giraffe in Uganda's Murchison Falls National Park that measured nine feet, four inches, he was shocked.

Read More Show Less
Kelsey Mueller, 16, pets Ruby while waiting with her family to be escorted from the evacuation zone at the Shaver Lake Marina parking lot off of CA-168 during the Creek Fire on Sept. 7, 2020 in Shaver Lake, California. Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times / Getty Images

By Daisy Simmons

In a wildfire, hurricane, or other disaster, people with pets should heed the Humane Society's advice: If it isn't safe for you, it isn't safe for your animals either.

Read More Show Less