Levels of marine debris, including microplastics, are largely un-documented in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. Broad scale monitoring efforts are required to understand the distribution, abundance and ecological implications of microplastic pollution. A method of continuous sampling was developed to be conducted in conjunction with a wide range of vessel operations to maximise vessel time. Transects covering a total of 12,700 km were sampled through continuous monitoring of open ocean sub-surface water resulting in 470 samples. Items classified as potential plastics were identified in 94% of samples. A total of 2315 particles were identified, 89% were less than 5 mm in length classifying them as microplastics. Average plastic abundance in the Northeast Atlantic was calculated as 2.46 particles m−3. This is the first report to demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of microplastic pollution in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean and to present a potential method for standardised monitoring of microplastic pollution.
Amy L. Lusher, Ann Burke, Ian O’Connor, Rick Officer, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 88 (1-2), pages 325-333, November 2014