Ocean wildlife under threat from plastics
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.’