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CONFIRMED: Plastic Pollution Affects Deep Sea Animals

Oct 03, 2016 05:51 AM EDT
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A new study revealed that plastic pollution has already reached deep oceans, negatively affecting deep sea animals.

The study, published in the journal Scientific Reports, showed for the first time that microplastics are being ingested by deep sea animals, such as sea cucumbers, hermit crabs and squat lobsters, living at the depths of between 300m and 1800m.

"The main purpose of this research expedition was to collect microplastics from sediments in the deep ocean -- and we found lots of them," explained Dr Michelle Taylor of Oxford University's Department of Zoology and lead author of the study, in a press release. Given that animals interact with this sediment, such as living on it or eating it, we decided to look inside them to see if there was any evidence of ingestion."

The most common kind of plastics the researchers found inside the deep sea animals were polyester, nylon and acrylic. The researchers defined microplastics as particles under 5mm in length, which is roughly the same size as marine snow. Marine snow is the shower of organic materials that falls from upper waters to the deep ocean and which many deep sea creatures feed on.

These microplastics could enter the ocean via washing of clothes with synthetic material or from fishing nets. However, the researchers were baffled and alarmed at the same time when they discover the microplastic they have observed were not found in the coastal areas but on the deep ocean, about thousand miles away from land-based sources of the pollution.

"This result astonished me and is a real reminder that plastic pollution has truly reached the furthest ends of the Earth," said Laura Robinson, Professor of Geochemistry in Bristol's School of Earth Sciences, in a statement.

For the study, the researchers used remotely-operated underwater vehicle to collect animal samples. The collected animals underwent different forensic laboratory techniques to identify the presence of microplastics in ingested materials of the deep-sea creatures.

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