Plastic Debris Found in Antarctica’s Southern Ocean
The first traces of plastic debris have been found in what was thought to be the pristine environment of the Southern Ocean, according to a study released by the French scientific research vessel Tara. The finding comes following a two-and-a-half-year, 70,000-mile voyage by the schooner across the Atlantic, Pacific, Antarctic and Indian Oceans, to investigate marine ecosystems and biodiversity under climate change.
“We had always assumed that this was a pristine environment, very little touched by human beings,” said Chris Bowler, scientific co-ordinator of Tara Oceans. “The fact that we found these plastics is a sign that the reach of human beings is truly planetary in scale.” Samples taken from four different stations at locations in the Southern Ocean and Antarctica revealed traces of plastic at a measure of approximately 50,000 fragments per square kilometre — a rate comparable to the global average. While traces of plastic pollutants are customary in many of the world’s oceans, with the highest levels found in the North Atlantic and North Sea, researchers had anticipated rates in the Southern Ocean to be some 10 times lower than the global average.