Please invest in Our Daily Planet today, by making a one time or monthly contribution.
We do not charge our readers a subscription fee for our content. We want to continue to grow our readership, particularly among millennials and public servants. Voluntary contributions from readers will help us employ interns and freelance journalists, expand our content, and reach a larger audience.
We already know that microplastics (bits that are less than 5 mm) are omnipresent in the ocean, but now scientists believe that previous estimates about how much plastic is in the ocean are actually way too low. Using very fine mesh nets, researchers surveyed the coasts of the U.S. and U.K. and were able to estimate that there could be at least twice as many microplastic particles in the ocean as previously thought. When the smaller particles they picked up in these survey trawls are added to global estimates of surface microplastics, it increases the range from between 5tn and 50tn particles to between 12tn-125tn particles, the scientists say.
Why This Matters: Microplastic is more abundant than the tiniest and one of the most abundant life forms in the ocean — zooplankton — if these estimates are correct. The smaller particles mean that they are similar in size to the food eaten by zooplankton, which are a key part of the marine food chain and important in regulating climate. As the authors say, “Microplastics are a prolific, persistent and pernicious contaminant, posing an environmental and economic risk to marine ecosystems across the globe.” We need to reduce our plastics load on the marine environment and soon.
Microplastics Found In Greater Abundance on the Seafloor Too
Recently, another group of scientists found that microplastics are also more abundant on the seafloor than had been believed. The plastic floating on the surface in the large ocean garbage patches is actually only 1% of the total plastic in the ocean. Where does the rest end up? On the seafloor. The researchshows that “powerful currents sweep these microplastics along the seafloor into large ‘drifts,’ which concentrate them in astounding quantities.” They found the highest levels of microplastics ever on the seafloor — they counted “1.9 million pieces of microplastic in a 5 cm-thick layer covering just one square meter.” Scientists believe that deep-sea currents push microplastics to the seabed like giant deepsea waves and deposit it in vast sediment drifts, thereby creating plastic “hotspots” on the seafloor and accumulating in the very same locations as biodiversity hotspots, where deep-sea life is abundant.
Scottish fishers are scrambling to stay afloat during COVID-19, and Brexit red-tape is making it even harder. Attempts to navigate new border checks and customs rules have been met with paperwork issues and administrative errors, causing delays in shipments to the European Union.
Why This Matters: Brexit isn’t the only thing threatening the Scottish fishing industry. As the North Sea warms, fish distributions shift and change, and experts say Scottish fisheries are largely unprepared.
On Tuesday, as the new First Family entered the White House, another new family was spotted in Georgia, and it has marine advocates just as excited. NOAA fisheries announced the thirteenth spotting of the season of an endangered North Atlantic right whale calf off the coast of Georgia. The calf, seen accompanied by its mother, is her first.
Why This Matters: The North Atlantic right whale was listed as endangered in 1970 and deaths have been outpacing births since 2010. 200 right whales died in the last ten years, almost entirely because of entanglements in commercial fishing ropes and vessel strikes.
A new paper released by the World Resources Institute (WRI) in collaboration with seven other environmental organizations outlines the ways that the ocean, often thought of as a victim of climate change, can be utilized to best combat global rising temperatures.
Why This Matters: We’ve written a lot about how the sea level is rising, and the ocean is warming, fueling stronger storm systems, and declines in biodiversity.
Our Daily Planet is your daily dose of the stories shaping our world and the ways that you can take action. From the climate crisis to the protection of biodiversity, if these issues matter to you then please subscribe & stay informed!
Your privacy is Important! We promise never to use your email address to send you spam or advertisements.