North Sea plas­tic pol­lu­tion goes un­der the mi­cro­scope

● Dutch sci­en­tists to sur­vey Scot­tish seas and coast­line

The Scotsman - - Around Scotland - By ILONA AMOS

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.”

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