Thursday, August 31, 2017

Plastic Clean Up Campaign Extends to Round Britain Investigation

All Women Team Raise Awareness of Everyday Marine Pollution
Shipping News Feature
UK – An all women team which is sailing around the British coastline has arrived in the River Thames and is kicking off local awareness-raising activities with a discussion panel made up of crew members, a scientist and young environmental activists, to try and combat the ever growing threat of pollution, particularly from micro plastic and an array of chemicals. The project follows on from the Port of London Authority's (PLA) own Cleaner Thames Campaign which says over 300 tonnes of rubbish, largely made up of plastic bottles, comes out of the river every year. Think of the weight of those and you have some idea how serious the problem has become.

PLA environment manager and eXXpedition Round Britain crew member Tanya Ferry spoke about a subject which for her is a personal issue, saying:

We know there is an issue with plastic bottles entering the River Thames, the eXXpedition research on the river will improve our knowledge of micro plastics and toxics, and how it compares with other marine environments around the country.”

In some species of fish over 75% will carry plastic waste in their gut according to research by the Royal Holloway, University of London and one can only imagine how micro beads, which enter the ecosystem at a very low level, may prove devastating as they move up the food chain. The ladies which form the current project, eXXpedition, joined other panellists including a scientist and young environmental activists to speak about the state of the marine environment, how eXXpedition was formed, and their current Round Britain scientific surveying and awareness-raising outreach activities.

Paul Rose, who hosted BBC Inside Out: Plastic Seas, BBC Oceans and National Geographic Pristine Sea expedition leader, chaired the panel. He said:

“Only a couple of years ago, I was on the Thames launching the Cleaner Thames Campaign with the PLA, which was aimed at addressing the issue of plastic litter entering the Thames. Today, the eXXpedition team is here looking at a similar issue, but on a micro level around the country.”

In recent years, the problem of marine plastic debris has gained greater acknowledgement from academics, politicians, the media and even the UN Environment Programme, which has declared it to be a global problem. Dr Diana Papoulias Aquatic Toxicologist, Fish Biologist and eXXpedition Science Advisor observed:

“It is believed that approximately 270,000 tonnes of micro plastics exist in the oceans. The research we are doing is important to understand the prevalence of micro plastics and chemicals in British waters, and what the impact may be on us.”

The eXXpedition team is using a range of surveying tools, including a manta trawl, a plankton tow, a grab, and a water filter, to sample the water, sediment, and air for plastics and toxic substances. The crew has been carrying out 15 scientific experiments while on their Round Britain voyage this summer. Emily Penn, eXXpedition Co-founder and Ocean Advocate explained:

“eXXpedition is about gaining a greater understanding of the harmful chemicals and plastics in our seas, and how they may impact our environment and health. The samples we take from the Thames, and from all around the country, will be shipped off to be analysed by specialists at universities in the UK and the US.”

Two members of the panel Amy, aged 12 and Ella, who is fourteen spoke about the concerns of a generation which is inheriting a set of problems caused by their predecessors, with Ella expressing dread at the quantity of discarded plastic and the harm it must cause when it breaks down, whilst Amy felt the research would hopefully add to the knowledge and show how bad the problem actually is.

For more information about eXXpedition Round Britain and events taking place in London between the 31st August and 3rd of September click here.

Photo: A crow’s nest view of Sea Dragon, the eXXpedition vessel.