Plastic debris on the increase in North Pacific

Richard Harrington By: Richard Harrington
Date posted: 9 May 2012

Recent research from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (published in the journal, Biology Letters) has shown a big rise in the amount of plastic litter floating in Pacific waters - a 100 fold increase over the past 40 years.

Recent research from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography (published in the journal, Biology Letters) has shown a big rise in the amount of plastic litter floating in Pacific waters - a 100 fold increase over the past 40 years. Patches of rubbish turn into large conglomerations, which have a huge impact on marine ecosystems. Smaller pieces of plastic seem to be being used by the marine insect Halobates sericeus (commonly known as ‘sea-skaters’ or ‘water-striders’) as surfaces to lay their eggs on, possibly helping the species spread in range. For other marine organisms, however, micro-plastics pose a significant threat as they can be easily ingested. As Dr Sue Kinsey, Litter Policy Officer at MCS, comments: “The fact that the amount of plastic in the North Pacific, a material that has been in common usage for less than a hundred years, has risen so dramatically is a shameful testament to our throwaway societies. These findings are likely to be replicated throughout our oceans and greatly increases the potential for this litter to be ingested and for alien species to be transported across our oceans. There is not an easy solution to dealing with the litter already present in oceanic gyres. We can clean up this rubbish as it arrives on our beaches and near shore areas but most importantly we must prevent litter getting to the oceans in the first place. This is why MCS are calling on the UK Government to put in place a target of a 50% decrease in the amount of litter on our beaches by 2020, as an impetus for putting in place the appropriate measures to prevent littering of our oceans and seas. “Read more about this campaign or find out more about MCS work on Clean Seas and Beaches

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