Pollution and Debris

A variety of marine litter collected in the Western Mediterranean at 1,200 meters depth. Credit: © Ramirez-Llodra, ICM-CSIC/BIOFUN

The issue: Chemical pollution and debris, including plastic, result from anthropogenic activities and the ocean is often the ultimate sink. There are numerous potentially harmful effects of these pollutants, which vary depending on use and material. Major types of pollution include garbage, plastic nurdles, fishing gear, and liquid chemicals that make their way into the ocean through dumping, spills, waste releases, natural disasters, shipping, industrial activities and from degrading debris (e.g. leaching from plastic). These input are often large, for example, between 5 and 13 million tonnes of plastics were estimated to enter the ocean each year, according to a 2015 study. These are now known to be impacting the deep sea; plastic cups are stuck in the railings of the Titanic and microfibers have been found in the guts of organisms in the Marianas Trench.

The Working Group: The DOSI Pollution and Debris working group aims to 1) improve public understanding of and promote research into the patterns, impacts and relative risk of pollution and debris in the deep sea, 2) advocate for the consideration of the deep sea in policy development and conservation initiatives, augmenting work already being done in shallow waters, 3) provide expert opinion on pollution and debris concerns through written responses, workshops, and engagement with pollution and debris-focused groups.

Proposed Initial Activities:

  1. Develop a list of existing groups working on marine plastic pollution with which to engage, with the aim of adding the deep-sea perspective.
  2. Develop a press pack, providing a unified expert opinion on the impacts of pollution and debris
  3. Develop a reference listing of benthic and pelagic studies about plastic/debris/pollution in the deep-sea
  4. Discuss the differing methods of assessing plastic in the marine environment, with the aim of developing a community best practise (or an evaluation of the pros and cons of each, or an inter-calibration between them?)
  5. Develop a matrix to help inform communities of relative risk of different deep sea threats, along with other WGs