Environment & Economy By Peter Tremblay 596 Views

Unbelievable Amounts of Plastics Swimming in the Deep Ocean and Entering the Food Web

Scientists have discovered that the deeper parts of the ocean containdisturbing amounts ofmicroplastics, a lot more than what is seen onthe shores. These microplastics are tiny pieces of plastic floating in the wide ocean in huge amounts.

According to the chief scientist at the Monterey Bay Aquarium, KyleVan Houtan, quoted on NPR, "We found that most of the plastic is below the surface."

The Montgomery Bay Aquarium Research Institute used someof their most sophisticated tools to conduct this research. A multimillion-dollar machine called Ventana, which is a massive underwater robot with robotic arms, a lot of sensors, machinery, lights, and video cameras. Ventana descended up to 3,000 feet deep into the Bay in search for plastic.

The scientists were surprised when they found out that submerged micro-plastics are now widely distributed, from the surface to thousands of feet deep. Marine Biologist Anela Choy an assistant of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in San Diego who was lead scientist on the study describes the ocean as a giant feeding trough. "It's filled with animals," she says, "and they're not only moving up and down in the water column every day, forming the biggest migration on the planet, but they're also feasting upon one another."

Aquatic animals such as larvaceansthat filter tiny organisms out of the water were examined by scientist to find out if there were micro-plastics in their bodies and Choy says, "We found small plastics in every larvacean that we examined from the different depths across the water column, ". Another filter feeder, the red crab, also contained plastic pieces.

Aside from red crab and larvaceans, they also studied fish that can only be seen in the deeper part of the ocean. Choy collected creatures called lancetfish. She described them as being several feet long, with huge mouths and lots of sabre-sharp teeth. They're called the dragons of the deep.  Choy and her team looked on 2,000 lancetfish and reported, “We’ve found that about one in every three lancetfish has some kind of plastic in its stomach. It's really shocking because this fish actually doesn't come to the surface as far as we know." That suggests that plastic has spread through the water.

According to Bruce Robinson, a senior scientist with the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute, it is simply shocking, the amount of plastic that was found. "The fact that plastics are so pervasive, that they are so widespread, is a staggering discovery, and we'd be foolish to ignore that," he says.

"Anything that humans introduce to that habitat is passing through these animals and being incorporated into the food web." It is worth noting that this food web leads up to marine animals that people eat.

The scientists warn that humans should think twice about some of our activities which harm nature because, in the end, these things come back to bite.

The findings of the research was published fully in the journal Nature Scientific Reports and only represent a local sample.