State of knowledge

Despite the increasing concern of the scientific community, the issue of marine debris remain extremely mysterious. We still don’t know what will be the fate of the floating plastic.

The omnipresence of plastics in every sea of the planet gives rise to growing concern. This in turn motivates scientific research:  although rare at present, studies are being conducted in different parts of the world. Methods are varying but we can roughly distinguish three categories of studies.

  • Understand the extent of plastic pollution at the global scale and its evolution over the time. Indeed, it was long believed that plastic would mainly accumulate at the convergence zone of ocean gyres. The last studies show that only 1% of the total amount of plastic in the ocean ends up in these vortexes. The fate of floating marine debris remains mysterious. We still don’t know if this plastic is sinking and accumulates in the sediments, if they break into extremely small particles, or if this plastic is decomposed by bacteria or if they accumulate in the food web. The activities of Oceaneye focus on these questions.

The fate of floating plastic is still unknown, we still ignore where is 99% of all floating plastic.

 Amount of microplastic/Km²

Predictive model of plastic distribution. The representation is based on the data available. Source: Eriksen M et al., Plos One, 2014

  • Assess the “physical” impacts of plastic pollution on the living biota of the oceans : seabed hypoxia, animal death by choking, strangulation or accumulation of plastics in the stomach. This means establishing statistical data to quantify the impacts on marine wildlife. These data are often provided by coastal cleanup and nature preservation organizations.

The accumulation of plastic in the stomach of animals is a real problem that must be faced. 

Some regions of the world are extremely polluted. Humans are among the victims of this pollution.

  • Assessment of the possible toxicity of plastic components or of PBTs fixed to them as well as convection of invasive species. These phenomena are complex and occur on a large time scale (bioaccumulation effects). This type of studies requires very specific expertise in toxicology and are generally conducted by specialized laboratories, often linked to academic institutions.