Microplastics in the world’s oceans are a global concern due to the potential threat they pose to marine organisms. This study investigated microplastic abundance, distribution and composition in the Atlantic Ocean on a transect from the Bay of Biscay to Cape Town, South Africa. Microplastics were sampled from sub-surface waters using the underway system of the RV Polarstern. Potential microplastics were isolated from samples and FT-IR spectroscopy was used to identify polymer types. Of the particles analysed, 63% were rayon and 37% were synthetic polymers. The majority of microplastics were identified as polyesters (49%) and blends of polyamide or acrylic/polyester (43%). Overall, fibres (94%) were predominant. Average microplastic abundance in the Atlantic Ocean was 1.15 ± 1.45 particles m− 3. Of the 76 samples, 14 were from the Benguela upwelling and there was no statistically significant difference in microplastic abundance between upwelled and non-upwelled sites.
La Daana K. Kanhai, Rick Officer, Olga Lyashevska, Richard C. Thompson, Ian O’Connor, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 115, Issues 1–2, 15 February 2017, Pages 307–314