Recently I was captivated by the picture below twitted by Andrew Almack Founder of plasticsforchange.org, with the tweet: “Did you know that all of the shoreline cleanups combined still only collect less than 1% of the plastic entering the #ocean each year?”
A research conducted by the University of the Aegean, between May and August 2003 at depths between 0 and 25 m, showed that the marine debris concentration on the seafloor of coastal Greek areas was higher than debris concentration estimated by other studies in the Mediterranean.
Plastic debris in the Mediterranean surface waters is dominated by millimeter-sized fragments, but showed a higher proportion of large plastic objects than that present in oceanic gyres, reflecting the closer connection with pollution sources. The accumulation of floating plastic in the Mediterranean Sea is between 1,000 and 3,000 tons.
What is the impact of plastic pollution in Greek marine ecosystems?
The two most important small-sized pelagic species in Greek waters, making up 30% of the total Greek landings and 59% of the total purse seine landings are the European anchovy (Engraulis encrasicolus) and sardine (Sardina pilchardus). The potential habitats for all life stages of these two species is located inshore, mainly in waters shallower than 100 m depth.
Since 2009, researchers from Archipelagos Institute of Marine Conservation have been carrying out thorough research throughout Greece on the dispersal of microplastic fibers within ecosystems, studying their abundance on coastal sediments, fish, invertebrates and surface waters.
Some of the results from this research give an answer to my question of the scale of the problem and the answer is shocking:
- Analysing more than 1000 samples from 167 beaches of the Greek coast, there was no sample that did not contain fibres of microplastics.
- Further analysis in 2012 and 2013 showed that almost 100% of fish and marine invertebrates (such as sponges and sea cucumbers) examined were also found to contain miniature fibres in their stomachs.
This confirms that microplastic particles are entering the food chain through our seas.