The origins of plastic pollution at sea

The origins of plastic pollution at sea


Tara Ocean Foundation launches the exploration of 10 European rivers

Where does plastic waste originate? How does it arrive in the Ocean? Where should we concentrate our efforts to stop the flow of this waste? What impacts do plastics have on marine biodiversity? Recent estimates find that 80% of plastic waste found at sea originates on land. The Tara Ocean Foundation and the European Molecular Biology Laboratory (EMBL) have been involved in this research since 2010. Now it is urgent to explore and identify the flux of plastic waste from land to sea in order to stop it. The upcoming Mission Microplastics 2019 — with the CNRS in charge of scientific coordination — will take the schooner Tara through several regions in Europe for 6 months, exploring 10 major European rivers. The journey began on May 23, 2019 in Lorient (Morbihan), Tara’s home port.

A new chapter of research about plastic at sea aboard Tara

During several expeditions since 2010, the schooner collected microplastics (from 0.2 to < 5mm in diameter) in her nets. The evidence is clear: microplastics are ubiquitous throughout the oceans. In 2014 we focused on this pollution in the Mediterranean Sea. Then in 2017 we discovered an important zone of plastic accumulation in the Arctic Ocean, and in 2018 we identified the biodiversity associated with microplastics in the north Pacific vortex. Now Tara and her partners will identify the sources, predict their outcome, and assess the impact of plastics from the land to the sea.

About EMBL

EMBL is Europe’s flagship laboratory for the life sciences. Established in 1974 as an intergovernmental organisation, EMBL is supported by over 20 member states. EMBL performs fundamental research in molecular biology, studying the story of life. The institute offers services to the scientific community; trains the next generation of scientists and strives to integrate the life sciences across Europe. EMBL is international, innovative and interdisciplinary. Its more than 1700 staff, from over 80 countries, operate across six sites in Barcelona (Spain), Grenoble (France), Hamburg (Germany), Heidelberg (Germany), Hinxton (UK) and Rome (Italy). EMBL scientists work in independent groups and conduct research and offer services in all areas of molecular biology. EMBL research drives the development of new technology and methods in the life sciences. The institute works to transfer this knowledge for the benefit of society.

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