Plastic pollution at sea: how does our plastic waste arrive in the ocean and how can we stop it?

An image to illustrate plastic pollution
© iStock/RomoloTavani

The Tara Ocean Foundation and EMBL have launched the exploration of ten European rivers to investigate the origin of plastic waste, which is causing plastic pollution at sea.

EMBL asks: “Where does plastic waste originate? How does it arrive in the Ocean? Where should we concentrate our efforts to stop the flow of this waste? What impacts do plastics have on marine biodiversity?” Mission Microplastics 2019 will use the schooner Tara to explore several regions in Europe to assess the plastic pollution at sea.

The goals of the mission

EMBL and the Tara Ocean Foundation are working to accomplish 2 major goals:

  1. To identify sources of pollution and behaviour of microplastics as they disperse into the ocean; and
  2.  To understand the impacts of microplastics on marine biodiversity and the food chain

The mission will be led by an interdisciplinary team of around 40 scientists, comprisising of marine biologists, ecotoxicologists, oceanographers, mathematicians/modelers, chemists and physicists

Identifying how plastic waste gets into the sea

EMBL said: “Now it is urgent to explore and identify the flux of plastic waste from land to sea in order to stop it. The upcoming Mission Microplastics 2019 — with the CNRS in charge of scientific coordination — will take the schooner Tara through several regions in Europe for 6 months, exploring 10 major European rivers. The journey will begin on May 23, 2019 in Lorient (Morbihan), Tara’s home port.”

Edith Heard, EMBL Director General, commented: “EMBL continues to make crucial contributions in data analysis, data storage, and in making all data publicly available. As the largest cohesive ecosystem on Earth, the oceans can provide us with insights that are crucial not only for the preservation of mankind, but also of our planet. EMBL will continue working to gain these vital insights in future, together with the Tara Ocean Foundation and the CNRS among others.”

© Noélie Pansiot – Fondation Tara Océan
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