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Hesperides, vessel that belongs to the Spanish Armada. (Photo: Stock File)

Ocean pollution confirmed to 'most remote areas'

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Thursday, September 18, 2014, 01:50 (GMT + 9)

A report issued by a scientific team led by the Higher Council for Scientific Research (CSIC) who studied the deep sea offers a general and comprehensive overview of the world's oceans.

This research is part of the Malaspina project started three years ago with an expedition on board the vessel Hesperides of the Spanish Navy in the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans.

The report on this study, which will be presented at a CSIC conference in Barcelona, signals the end of the largest interdisciplinary project in the history of global change.

Scientists involved in the study found that in the world's oceans there are between 10 per cent and 30 per cent more fish than estimated, and only 1 per cent of the amount of plastic waste that was believed to exist, the newspaper El Mundo informed.

According to Carlos Duarte, director of the multidisciplinary expedition, the project "tries to paint a large mural depicting the sea status in the twenty-first century as a reference for future research."

The researchers found that the mass of fish in depths between 400 and 700 metres is 10 times higher than what was thought.

Besides, they proved that in the areas known as "ocean deserts" there are some creatures that feed on plastic waste. For scientists, this is the explanation for the absence of 99 per cent of plastic waste annually dumped at sea.

They argue that the entry of pollutants from the atmosphere is not limited to coastal areas, but it also occurs in the more remote areas of the planet, the CSIC reported.

Researchers were able to determine how the dioxins, chemical compounds generated during organic waste combustion, are globally distributed.

"The concentrations are higher near the continents than in the central areas of the oceans, a circumstance that is explained by the degradation processes during transport, since they deposit directly into the ocean from the atmosphere," explains Jordi Dachs, CSIC researcher at the Institute of Environmental Assessment and Water Research and one of the project authors.

"We have observed that pollutants enter directly into the ocean through the atmosphere, reaching the most remote areas of the planet, with contributions that are already affecting the ocean ecosystem," he adds.

The Hesperides departed on 15 December, 2010 from Cadiz, and stopped at Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) and Cape Town (South Africa). After passing through Perth (Australia), it arrived in Sydney (Australia), Auckland (New Zealand), Honolulu (Hawaii), and Cartagena de Indias (Colombia). 

Meanwhile, the ship Sarmiento de Gamboa, belonging to the CSIC, returned in April 2010 from Santo Domingo (Dominican Republic), where it had arrived after exploring the Atlantic for nearly two months.

Malaspina expedition is funded by the Ministry of Economy and Competitiveness and includes about 50 research groups, including 27 Spanish research groups, of the CSIC, the Spanish Institute of Oceanography (IEO), 16 Spanish universities, a museum, the Technology Centre Expert in Marine and Food Research (AZTI-Tecnalia), the Spanish Armada, and several Spanish universities.

Eugenio Fraile, one of the project leaders, commented that "millions" of data collected in the seven months of the expedition are "evidence that climate change is real" and "a reality with which we must live," Europa Press reported.

While Josep Maria Gasol, another expert of the expedition, stressed that finding degradation genes of anthropogenic pollutants at great depths has "surprised" them.

"Some of these impacts have to do with the atmospheric circulation, but also indicate that the deep ocean has already realized that humans are having an impact on Earth," he added.

By Analia Murias
[email protected]



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