PUBLISHED: 15:26 EST, 27 April 2012 | UPDATED: 15:38 EST, 27 April 2012
There is far more plastic in the world’s oceans that previously thought, scientists claimed today.
Researchers believe current estimates vastly underestimate the figures because they only look at the ocean surface.
Plastic waste can wreak havoc on oceans, harming fish and other organisms that ingest it, and possibly even degrading a fish’s liver.
It also acts as a carrier for bacteria, spreading it across oceans.
The latest claim was made by University of Washington oceanographer Giora Proskurowski who noticed the issue when on a research cruise in the Pacific Ocean.
He saw the water surface was littered with tiny bits of plastic — until the wind suddenly picked up and the plastic ‘disappeared.’
Taking water samples from 16 feet he discovered the wind was pushing the lightweight plastic particles below the surface.
In 2010, the team collected water samples at various depths in the North Atlantic Ocean.
‘Almost every subsurface tow we took had plastic in the net,’ Proskurowski said.
The finding suggests data collected from just the surface of the water commonly underestimates the total amount of plastic in the water by an average factor of 2.5, according to further research from Proskurowski and his team.
In high winds, the volume of plastic trash could be underestimated by a factor of 27, he reported with Tobias Kukulka of the University of Delaware this month in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.
‘That really puts a lot of error into the compilation of the data set,’ Proskurowski said.
Proskurowski and his study co-authors have developed a simplified mathematical model to match historical weather data, collected by satellites, with previous surface sampling to estimate more accurately the amount of plastic in the oceans.
‘By factoring in the wind, which is fundamentally important to the physical behavior, you’re increasing the rigor of the science and doing something that has a major impact on the data,’ Proskurowski said.
‘The scope of the plastic debris problem is not just at the very surface but goes down to 20 meters or so, and that plastic is distributed throughout this layer.’
Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2136334/Scientists-warn-far-plastic-waste-previously-estimated-deeper-ocean.html#ixzz1t16M2v4v