Mediterranean on way to becoming ‘microplastic marine soup’
By Irene Martin Morales
Malaga, Apr 30 (EFE).- The Mediterranean is on its way to becoming “a marine soup of microplastics” posing a “serious” threat to the sea’s ecosystem and wildlife, experts told Efe.
“Microplastics are everywhere and – although much remains to be known about their possible effects in the Mediterranean which makes up just only 1% of the (global) ocean (surface) – they represent 7% of global waste,” Carmen Morales, a biologist and researcher at the University of Cadiz’s Marine Research Institute, tells Efe.
The expert adds that the consumption of plastic has increased considerably in recent years and that this has had “a cumulative effect” due to the dumping of garbage in the oceans.
The waste “is already degrading” and is now difficult to eliminate, she adds.
The Mediterranean, which is a semi-enclosed sea that is surrounded by 22 countries, renews its waters once every 100 years.
Because of the vast population surrounding its waters, it houses large volumes of waste, 95% of which is plastic.
Juan Jesús Martín, coordinator of the Environmental Education MA at the University of Malaga, says that microplastics, due to their tiny size, move through the food chain through marine animals that ingest them.
These are then eaten by humans, and other species leading to what has been dubbed the trophic transfer of microplastics.
Marine creatures that feed on plankton, such as mollusks, are more likely to store microplastics and not expel them.
Other animals, such as sea turtles or fish with long lifespans, such as swordfish or tuna, also confuse it with their regular food, leading to “structural damage in the digestive, endocrine or immune systems as well as possible effects on the bloodstream and cells,” Morales adds.
“Absolutely all the turtles that we have studied have microplastics,” says the biologist.
The presence of plastics in the sea is a serious problem for humans, both for the economy, because it leads to a reduction in fishing, and also from a health perspective, due to the consumption of contaminated fish.
The solution, she says, is to “reduce consumption”, beginning within “our own homes” to try to “move the market towards alternatives that are more considerate towards the environment”.
Experts also call for institutional measures to raise awareness and improve waste management, which, if done properly can change a lot, especially in “large population centers near coasts and rivers,” says Morales.
Paris is set to host a new round of intergovernmental negotiations in late May on an international treaty that aims to end additional plastic pollution by 2040.EFE