A study by the UK’s Newcastle University has revealed alarming facts about presence of man-made fibres and plastics inside stomachs of living animals from six deepest places on earth.
The research, led by Dr Alan Jamieson, has uncovered evidence that not only have plastics now reached the deepest chasms of our oceans, but they are being ingested by the animals that live there.
The team revealed their findings on 15 Nov as part of Sky Ocean Rescue - a campaign to raise awareness of how plastics and pollution are affecting our seas.
The research tested samples of crustaceans found in the ultra-deep trenches that span the entire Pacific Ocean – the Mariana, Japan, Izu-Bonin, Peru-Chile, New Hebrides and Kermadec trenches.
The areas range from seven to over 10 kilometres deep, with as the deepest point, Challenger Deep in the Mariana Trench, at 10,890 metres deep.
Using facilities at Newcastle University and Shimadzu UK Ltd in Milton Keynes, the team examined 90 individual animals and found ingestion of plastic ranged from 50% in the New Hebrides Trench to 100% at the bottom of the Mariana Trench.
The fragments identified include semi-synthetic cellulosic fibres, such as Rayon, Lyocell and Ramie, which are all microfibres used in products such as textiles, to nylon, polyethylene, polyamide, or unidentified polyvinyls closely resembling polyvinyl alcohol or polyvinylchloride - PVA and PVC.
Although the majority of marine litter can be observed floating on the surface, the degradation and fragmentation of plastics will ultimately result in their sinking to the underlying deep-sea habitats, where opportunities for dispersal become ever more limited.
“Deep-sea organisms are dependent on food raining down from the surface,” explained Dr Jamieson, “which in turn brings any adverse components, such as plastic and pollutants with it.
These observations are the deepest possible record of microplastic occurrence and ingestion, said Jamieson, adding that it was highly unlikely that there was any marine ecosystem left which was not impacted by anthropogenic debris.