The deep ocean is filled with microplastics
A filter-feeding larvacean: Ingesting plastic
The increasing amount of plastic pollution in our oceans is well documented, but a new study suggests the problem may be far worse than previously thought. Using underwater robots off California’s Central Coast, researchers found that microplastics—tiny fragments of partially broken-down plastic bags, bottles, and other products—were pervasive not only on the water’s surface but also thousands of feet below it. In fact, there may be at least as much microplastic in the deep ocean as there is in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the infamous floating mass of plastic trash that covers an area twice the size of Texas.Sampling water at depths ranging from 16 to 3,280 feet, the researchers discovered microplastics at every level. To their surprise, they found that the highest concentrations were neither on the surface nor at the deepest point, but between 600 and 2,000 feet down. At those depths, plastic concentrations were four times what they were near the surface. The team also found plastic particles in red crabs—which are eaten by larger fish, such as tuna—tadpole-like larvaceans, and other deep-sea marine creatures. “We found microplastics everywhere we looked, in every sample and specimen,” lead author Anela Choy tells NationalGeographic.com. Choy says the findings need to be replicated in other parts of the ocean to see whether they hold up; the area they examined is actually considered relatively clean.