It’s not actually a recent problem – microplastics have been falling seaward for half a century now, which means that the cumulative effects of this pollution over time could be more severe than we’re currently aware. This study underscores another facet to this crisis, and its findings can be added to an already extensive, tragic tapestry.
Plastic – wherever in the ocean is may be found – is fundamentally altering our planet’s ecosystems. Coral reefs infested by it are seeing their diseases rates skyrocket, and bacteria are appearing to evolve to digest this massive, new resource.
It’s hard to ignore the fact that the plastics consumed by aquatic fauna throughout the world’s oceans are often retrieved from the sea by fisheries, which means we’re eating our own plastic waste. One estimate suggests those with a penchant for seafood are eating around 11,000 plastic fragments every single year.
What goes around, comes around, as they say.
Studies like this raise awareness, and governments around the world are beginning to implement both plastic and microplastic bans. Progress is slow, though – which makes the future of our oceans deeply and disconcertingly unclear.