No doubt there is plastic in the Arctic Ocean from the streets and communities around New York Harbor. Once plastic gets into the water, it moves and everything is connected in the environment.
The Arctic Ocean Is Clogging With Billions of Plastic Bits
Pollution is now as dense in the northernmost ocean as it is in the Atlantic and Pacific.
APR 20, 2017
The Arctic Ocean is small, shallow, and—most importantly—shrouded. Unlike the other large oceans of the world, it is closely hemmed in by Asia, Europe, and North America, with very few watery entrances in and out. Some oceanographers call it the “Arctic Mediterranean Sea,” a nod both to its between-the-terra-ness and its similarity to that smaller ocean.
Often, that remoteness has played to its ecological advantage. Very few ships pass through the area (with all their attendant pollution and environmental disruption), at least compared to nearby waterways like the Bering Sea. It also helps that much of the Arctic freezes over every winter.
But a paper released this week in Science Advances argues that its location is now harming it. The first survey of the region has found that roughly 300 billion pieces of floating plastic, most of them tiny but visible to the unaided eye, have clogged the planet’s northernmost sea. The plastic, having been carried to the pole over decades, now has very few ways out.
In other words, the Arctic Ocean has become the Northern Hemisphere’s “dead end” for floating plastic.
“Our data demonstrate that the marine plastic pollution has reached a global scale after only a few decades using plastic materials,” said Andrés Cózar Cabañas, a biologist at the University of Cádiz. It is, he said, “a clear evidence of the human capacity to change our planet. This plastic accumulation is likely to grow further.”
The survey was carried out while the research vessel Tara circumnavigated the pole in late 2013. The same Tara cruise also surveilled local plankton populationsand observed the aurora.