We report on three decades of repeat surveys of beached marine debris at two locations in the Scotia Sea, in the Southwest Atlantic sector of the Southern Ocean. Between October 1989 and March 2019 10,112 items of beached debris were recovered from Main Bay, Bird Island, South Georgia in the northern Scotia Sea. The total mass of items (data from 1996 onwards) was 101 kg. Plastic was the most commonly recovered item (97.5% by number; 89% by mass) with the remainder made up of fabric, glass, metal, paper and rubber. Mean mass per item was 0.01 kg and the rate of accumulation was 100 items km−1 month−1. Analyses showed an increase in the number of debris items recovered (5.7 per year) but a decline in mean mass per item, suggesting a trend towards more, smaller items of debris at Bird Island. At Signy Island, South Orkney Islands, located in the southern Scotia Sea and within the Antarctic Treaty area, debris items were collected from three beaches, during the austral summer only, between 1991 and 2019. In total 1304 items with a mass of 268 kg were recovered. Plastic items contributed 84% by number and 80% by mass, with the remainder made up of metal (6% by number; 14% by mass), rubber (4% by number; 3% by mass), fabric, glass and paper (<1% by number; 3% by mass). Mean mass per item was 0.2 kg and rate of accumulation was 3 items km−1 month−1. Accumulation rates were an order of magnitude higher on the western (windward) side of the island (13–17 items km−1 month−1) than the eastern side (1.5 items km−1 month−1). Analyses showed a slight decline in number and slight increase in mean mass of debris items over time at Signy Island. This study highlights the prevalence of anthropogenic marine debris (particularly plastic) in the Southern Ocean. It shows the importance of long-term monitoring efforts in attempting to catalogue marine debris and identify trends, and serves warning of the urgent need for a wider understanding of the extent of marine debris across the whole of the Southern Ocean.
Pollution and Marine Debris
China is the largest plastic consumer in the world. Despite its plastic waste import ban in 2017, this populous economy inevitably generates a large amount of waste, including plastic waste, a considerable part of which has become marine litter. Data from the 2018 National Coastal Cleanup and Monitoring Project, the largest beach litter monitoring activities using the citizen science approach in China, have been retrieved and analyzed to understand spatial patterns, composition, and original usage of marine litter. Within this project, 24 beaches were surveyed every two months. As a result, the mean density was 3.85 ± 5.39 items m−2, much higher than that reported by previous studies in China. There were great differences in the spatial distribution of litter. The highest densities appeared in the runoff-affected area of the Yangtze River, which was another difference from previous studies. Low-density, easy-to-transport foamed plastics were the major contributor to marine litter in these areas. Along China's coast, approximately 90% of litter was from land-based sources, and over half of that originated from domestic sources. Including foamed plastic products, plastic litter with low recycling value dominated. Both natural and human factors influencing the spatiotemporal distribution and composition of litter are discussed. Socioeconomic factors, such as the lifestyle and consumption levels of citizens and local waste management systems, are possible explanations for the low-value characteristic of marine litter. The deviation between previous data and citizen science data in this study may be caused by many factors. Based on the discussion on these factors, some suggestions for citizen science research in China are also put forward.
As an emerging contaminant in the environment, microplastics have attracted worldwide attention. Although research methods on microplastics in the environment have been reported extensively, the data on microplastics obtained cannot be comparable due to different methods. In this work, we critically reviewed the analytical methods of microplastics, including sample collection, separation, identification and quantification. Manta trawl and tweezers or cassette corers are used to collect water samples and sediments, respectively. For biota sample, internal organs need to be dissected and separated to obtain microplastics. Density differences are often used to separate microplastics from the sample matrix. Visual classification is one of the most common methods for identifying microplastics, and it can be better detected by combining it with other instruments. However, they are not suitable for detection nanoplastics, which may lead to underestimation of risk. The abundance of microplastics varies with the detection method. Thus, the analytical methods for microplastics need to be standardized as soon as possible. Meanwhile, new methods for analyzing nanoplastics are urgently needed.
The implications of plastic pollution, including microplastics, on marine ecosystems and species are increasingly seen as an environmental disaster. Yet few reports focus on filter-feeding megafauna in regions heavily impacted by plastic pollution, such as Indonesia in the Coral Triangle, a global marine biodiversity hotspot. Here, we evaluate plastic abundance and characterize debris from feeding grounds for manta rays Mobula alfredi and whale sharks Rhincodon typus in three coastal locations in Indonesia: Nusa Penida Marine Protected Area, Komodo National Park, and Pantai Bentar, East Java. A 200 μm plankton net was used to sample the top 0.5 m of the water column (‘trawl survey’) and floating plastics were assessed along ∼440 m long transects (‘visual survey’) during the Indonesian north-west (wet) and south-east (dry) monsoon seasons during 2016–2018. Microplastics were identified visually, measured and categorized from trawl samples, and larger floating plastics were counted and categorized visually from boats. Plastic abundance ranged widely from 0.04 to 0.90 pieces m–3 (trawl survey) and 210 to 40,844 pieces km–2 (visual survey). Results from linear models showed significant seasonal and location differences in estimated plastic abundance for trawl and visual surveys in Nusa Penida and Komodo. Plastic abundance was up to ∼ 44 times higher in the wet than the dry season, with the largest seasonal effect observed in Nusa Penida. Overall, small pieces < 5 mm (≥ 78%), films and fragments (> 50% combined) were the most prevalent plastics. Theoretical plastic ingestion rates were calculated using estimated filtration volumes of manta rays and whale sharks and the mean plastic abundance in their feeding grounds. Upper plastic ingestion estimates for manta rays were ∼63 and 25 pieces h–1 for Nusa Penida and Komodo locations, respectively, and ∼137 pieces h–1 for whale sharks in Java. Analysis of manta ray egested material confirmed plastic ingestion, the consequences of which might include exposure to toxic plastic additives and adhered persistent organic pollutants. Communicating this information to communities who stand to benefit from healthy megafauna populations might help local governments as they work toward reducing plastics in the marine environment.
Developing and implementing effective legislation to combat plastic litter in the marine environment has proven a significant challenge. This is in large part due to an incomplete understanding of the sources and transport pathways of plastic litter and is manifested in Europe’s current disjointed legislation that governs the aquatic environment. In this article, the authors present the perspective that marine plastic pollution in European waters cannot be mitigated without increased regional integration between the dominant legislative structures and must provide specific considerations for the role rivers and land-based activities play in the accumulation of plastic litter in the marine environment.
Since the start of commercial plastics production in the 1940s, global production has rapidly accelerated, doubling approximately every 11 years. Despite this increase and clear evidence of plastics loss into the oceans, including a substantial standing stock, previous research has not detected a temporal trend in plastic particle concentration in the surface ocean. Using a generalized additive statistical model, we examined the longest dataset available on floating plastic debris collected using plankton nets in the western North Atlantic from 1986 through 2015. There was a significant increasing temporal trend in plastic particle concentration that tracked cumulative global plastics production. We estimated an increase of 506,000 tonnes of floating plastic in the ocean in 2010 alone, or 0.2% of global production. Our results suggest that, while loss of plastic particles from the surface ocean undoubtedly occurs, the input exceeds the collective losses.
Coupled wave – 3D-hydrodynamics model runs are performed to investigate thermal discharge release to coastal areas by means of including nearshore effects of wave-current dynamics. The study area comprises the vicinity of a power plant at Cerano, in South Italy, where cooling industrial waters are released to the sea. The implemented model is calibrated by using temperature measurements and sensitivity analyses are carried out for various relevant drivers and input parameters. Afterwards, the effect of thermal discharge is investigated through distinct hypothetical scenarios for a combination of metocean conditions and operational features of the power plant (modifying water discharge and temperature at its outlet). The model results of this representative array of conditions are intercompared and evaluated on the basis of heat dispersion rate and areas of influence, providing with useful insights on the numerical simulation of the process and the potential effects for the specific coastal area.
Coral reef fishes are about 10% of commercial fishes worldwide. Their pollution is close to human’s health. Antibiotics are one group of emerging organic pollutants in the marine environment. However, little data is available on the bioaccumulation and dietary risks of antibiotics in coral reef fish from the South China Sea (SCS) or any other parts of the global coral reef environment. In this study, we examined 19 antibiotics in 18 species of coral reef fish collected from coastal and offshore regions in the SCS. The results revealed that 17 antibiotics were detected in the fishes. Their average concentrations ranged from 1.3×10-5 to 7.9×10-1 ng/g ww, which were at the lower end of the global range about antibiotic levels in fish. The average total antibiotic concentrations (∑19ABs) were significantly higher in the offshore fish (1.2 ng/g ww) than in the coastal fish (0.16 ng/g ww). Different fish species or the protection of mucus produced by coastal fish at severe environmental stress may cause the differences. Fluoroquinolones (FQs) accounted for 89% and 74% of the average ∑19ABs in the offshore and coastal fish, respectively. It may relate to their relative high aqueous solubility and adsorption ability to particles. The log BAFs (bioaccumulation factors) of the antibiotics ranged from -0.34 to 4.12. Norfloxacin, dehydrated erythromycin (DETM), and roxithromycin were bioaccumulative in some offshore fish samples with their log BAFs higher than 3.7. The results of trophic magnification factors (TMFs) demonstrated that DETM underwent significant trophic dilution while enoxacin underwent trophic magnification in the food web of coral reef fishes. The estimated daily intakes of antibiotics via fish consumption by China residents ranged from 2.0×10-4 to 2.7 ng/kg weight body/day, which was 3 to 8 orders of magnitude lower than the respective acceptable daily intakes.
In the ocean, plastic debris containing chemical additives is fragmented into smaller pieces that can be ingested by a wide range of organisms, potentially exposing them to additives. However, the levels of additives retained in marine plastic fragments have rarely been assessed. In this study, 141 plastic fragments from a beach in Kauai were analyzed piece-by-piece for 12 compounds, including UV stabilizers and brominated flame retardants. UV stabilizers (UV-326, UV-328, UV-327, and BP-12) were found in 13% of “small” fragments (4–7 mm) with levels of up to 315 μg/g and in 33% of “large” fragments (15–80 mm) with levels of up to 1130 μg/g. This observation suggests that exhaustive leaching of additives does not occur during fragmentation and that significant levels of additives, comparable to those of the original products, can be retained in fragments of marine plastic, indicating their importance as a vector of chemical additive exposure.
Despite an exponential increase in available data on marine plastic debris globally, information on levels and trends of plastic pollution and especially microplastics in the Arctic remains scarce. The few available peer-reviewed scientific works, however, point to a ubiquitous distribution of plastic particles in all environmental compartments, including sea ice. Here, we review the current state of knowledge on the sources, distribution, transport pathways and fate of meso- and microplastics with a focus on the European Arctic and discuss observed and projected impacts on biota and ecosystems.