The Mediterranean Is Now Home To A Brand New Island - But There's Just One Tiny Problem

The coastline of Corsica, a mountainous Mediterranean island, is no stranger to plastic. alpinenature/Shutterstock

The Mediterranean Sea has a new "island". Unfortunately, this is not an island of idyllic beaches and olive groves, it’s a giant patch of floating plastic trash that's accumulated off the coast of Corsica, a mountainous Mediterranean island.

Researchers have noted that a colossal floating “island” of plastic pollution has gathered between the French island of Corsica and the Italian island of Elba, according to France Blue, a local public radio broadcaster.

Fortunately, unlike the infamous Great Pacific garbage patch and the notorious “plastic islands” of the Atlantic, this island is believed to only be a “temporary accumulation zone”, driven by currents that have been worsened by freak weather conditions. Although transitory, the situation shows the extent of plastic pollution affecting the Mediterranean’s otherwise picturesque waters.

"The layout of the currents means there is very regularly a very, very high concentration in this area," François Galgani, of French marine research institute IFREMER, told France Blue.

“The currents in the north-western Mediterranean are organized in such a way that the water goes up along the Italian coast, and when it arrives on the base of the island of Elba, it can not pass and it will rush into the Corsican canal and that is why we have higher densities. When we have adverse weather conditions, for example, the north-east wind in summer, we have massive arrivals on the Corsican coast.”

Stock image of debris accumulating along the Mediterranean coast. KaliAntye/Shutterstock

In a huge report last year, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) warned that the Mediterranean runs the risk of becoming “a sea of plastic”, with increasing levels of pollution from microplastics threatening the ecosystem.

Their report found that the Mediterranean has a concentration of over 1.25 million plastic fragments per square kilometer of the sea. The Mediterranean holds just 1 percent of the world’s waters, yet 7 percent of global microplastics. This is primarily because the Mediterranean coast is home to 150 million people, let alone the millions of international tourists that flood to its beaches every summer. Besides that, Europe is the second-largest producer of plastics in the world, rivaled only by China.

“The impacts of plastic pollution in the Mediterranean are also being felt across the world and are causing serious harm both to nature and human health," John Tanzer, Oceans Leader of WWF International remarked, speaking about the report in 2018.

“Worsening plastic pollution will threaten the Mediterranean’s global reputation for tourism and seafood, undermining the local communities who depend on these sectors for their livelihoods. The plastics problem is also a symptom of the overall decline in the health of the Mediterranean and must serve as a rallying call for real action.”

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