North Sea plastic pollution goes under the microscope
● Dutch scientists to survey Scottish seas and coastline
0 Environmentalists from Dutch group By The Ocean We Unite show marine litter collected during a beach-clean in Fraserburgh A team of international researchers has sailed to Scotland to analyse levels of plastic pollution affecting wildlife in and around the North Sea.
Researchers from the Dutch environmental group By The Ocean We Unite are sampling water, beach sediment, jellyfish and plankton to discover the impact of plastic waste on the marine environment.
Plastic takes millennia to break down and is a major threat to marine life. Around
eight million tonnes gets into world oceans every year.
The researchers say the waters around Scotland, despite being considered clean, contain similar levels of contamination found in other parts of the world.
“Marine plastic pollution is a global threat to marine life,” said Dr Nanne van Hoytema, scientific research co-ordinator for By The Ocean We Unite.
“Larger plastic debris can entangle marine life, causing animals such as dolphins, turtles and sharks to starve or drown.”
The team will be taking samples from around Loch Ness, Inverness, Lossiemouth, Fraserburgh, Peterhead and Aberdeen during the trip.
They are also working with Scottish academics.
Dr Mark Hartl, associate professor of marine biology at Heriot-watt’s Centre for Marine Biodiversity and Biotechnology, will analyse jellyfish collected on the voyage.
He said: “One of the problems we have from collecting stranded jellyfish from the beach is that they have been eroded and knocked around by the waves, and we cannot guarantee whether microplastics have been ingested at sea or picked up after stranding.”
He hopes the new samples collected at sea will reveal whether jellyfish swallow microplastics from the water, which would provide a route into the food chain.
Dr Neil James, from the Environmental Research Institute at North Highland College, part of the University of the Highlands and Islands, will analyse plastic bottles collected during trip.
“Plastics can act like a sponge, adsorbing and concentrating pollutants,” he said.
“In the marine environment larger pieces of debris can break down into smaller pieces and be consumed by a range of animals, including seabirds, fish and marine mammals. By understanding the extent and concentration of pollutants on marine plastic we hope to better understand the extent of environmental contamination and potential implications for marine ecosystems.”