Ocean wildlife un­der threat from plas­tics

The Oban Times - - News -

A TWO-MONTH re­search trip around the Scot­tish coast dis­cov­ered plas­tic pol­lut­ing the beaches and habi­tats and threat­en­ing wildlife.

The Green­peace sci­en­tific voy­age found plas­tic in the feed­ing grounds of bask­ing sharks, in the habi­tats of wildlife such as puffins, seals and whales, and in the nests and beaks of seabirds.

Plas­tic pol­lu­tion is an area that the Scot­tish As­so­ci­a­tion for Marine Science, based at Dun­staffnage, is in­ter­ested in re­search­ing.

SAMS di­rec­tor Pro­fes­sor Nicholas Owens said: ‘The topic of plas­tic in the marine en­vi­ron­ment is an in­creas­ingly im­por­tant re­search area, given the ex­tent of marine de­bris and mi­croplas­tics found in even the deep­est parts of the ocean.

‘Mi­croplas­tics are par­tic­u­larly prob­lem­atic for the planet’s seas since they are hard to de­tect with the naked eye.

‘Mea­sur­ing less than five mil­lime­tres and of­ten re­quir­ing mag­ni­fy­ing tech­nol­ogy to view, th­ese are par­ti­cles of bro­ken- down plas­tic that end up in the ocean. Marine life can easily in­gest the par­ti­cles or mis­take them for food.

‘SAMS cur­rently has a PhD stu­dent look­ing at mi­croplas­tics in the deep sea and in Oc­to­ber we will wel­come a new PhD stu­dent to look at mi­croplas­tics in the Scot­tish marine en­vi­ron­ment. This will cover plas­tics in an­i­mals, sed­i­ments and the wa­ter col­umn.’

Green­peace cam­paign­ers pre­sented the find­ings from the two-month trip, de­liv­er­ing a pe­ti­tion to Scot­land’s En­vi­ron­ment Sec­re­tary, Roseanna Cun­ning­ham.

They are call­ing for a de­posit re­turn scheme for drinks con­tain­ers to be in­tro­duced to re­duce the num­ber of plas­tic bot­tles end­ing up in the ocean.

Tisha Brown, oceans cam­paigner at Green­peace UK, said: ‘It can­not be right that our beaches, seas and the stun­ning wildlife they are home to should be­come the fi­nal dump­ing ground for throw­away plas­tic bot­tles and other plas­tic trash.

‘ With a truck­load of plas­tic en­ter­ing the ocean ev­ery minute, we need ur­gent ac­tion from gov­ern­ments and from ma­jor soft drinks com­pa­nies which pro­duce bil­lions of sin­gle-use plas­tic bot­tles ev­ery year to stop the flow of plas­tic into the sea.’

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