67% of sharks are contaminated with plastic

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A study from the University of Exeter published last week in the journal Scientific Reports shows that 67% of 46 sharks analysed contained microplastics and other man-made fibre in their digestive system.  Scientists studied four species of demersal sharks that live near the seabed off the UK coast.  A total of 379 particles were found and, though the impact on the sharks’ health is unknown, the researchers say it highlights the “pervasive nature of plastic pollution.”

In response to the study, Will McCallum, head of Oceans for Greenpeace UK said:

Our addiction to plastics combined with the lack of mechanisms to protect our oceans is suffocating marine life. Sharks sit on top of the marine food web and play a vital role in ocean ecosystems. Yet, they are completely exposed to pollutants and other human impactful activities.  We need to stop producing so much plastic and create a network of ocean sanctuaries to give wildlife space to recover. The ocean is not our dump, marine life deserves better than plastic.

Lesser spotted dogfish caught as bycatch – credit Kristian Parton

Greenpeace USA Oceans Campaign Director John Hocevar added:

“In recent weeks we have learned more about how badly we have saturated our air, water, and soil with plastic, to the point where there is likely to be bits of plastic in most fruits and vegetables. Mass use of throwaway plastic has also contaminated our oceans, to the point where two-thirds of sharks sampled had plastic in their stomachs. Sharks play a critical role in maintaining a balance to marine ecosystems, but many shark species are at risk due to industrial fishing. It is hard to see how we can protect sharks if we seem unwilling even to protect ourselves. Eliminating single-use plastic is one of the most straightforward steps we can take to improve the health of our oceans and our communities.”

For more information about Greenpeace visit their website by clicking here.

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown

Nick and Caroline Robertson-Brown are a husband and wife team of underwater photographers. Both have degrees in environmental biology from Manchester University, with Caroline also having a masters in animal behaviour. Nick is a fellow of the Royal Photographic Society in underwater wildlife photography and he also has a masters in teaching. They are passionate about marine conservation and hope that their images can inspire people to look after the world's seas and oceans. Their Manchester-based company, Frogfish Photography, offers a wide range of services and advice. They offer tuition with their own tailor made course - the Complete Underwater Photography Award. The modules of the course have been written to complement the corresponding chapters in Nick's own book: Underwater Photography Art and Techniques. They also offer equipment sales and underwater photography trips in the UK and abroad. For more information visit www.frogfishphotography.com.

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