Study reveals widespread plastic distribution in Antarctic waters

Scientists from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation (Long Beach, California), in cooperation with IUCN project partner the TARA Foundation, report findings of plastic pollution in Antarctic waters.

Antarctica Photo: Weller

During a 2011 segment of a three year circumnavigation voyage by the vessel TARA, every sample taken from the Antarctic Ocean contained plastic with the count between 956 and 42,826 pieces per kilometer squared at each of the stations. These samples were collected at or near the ocean’s surface and show that plastic pollution has found its way to the most remote parts of the globe.

The full effects wrought by this pollution continue to be investigated and include the study of marine birds, mammals, and fish that ingest small bits of plastic and/or get entangled in large pieces, as well as the relationship between plastics and the marine microbes that colonize them. Additional analysis is being conducted to understand human health risks associated with these plastics, plastic additives (e.g., BPA), and toxins that sorb to the plastics (e.g., DDT), as they enter the food web.

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Work area: 
North America
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