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Science News: Out of sight, out of mind: Deep-sea garbage

– G.A., Senior Editor

The environmental movement has made tremendous strides in raising awareness of the impact that humanity has on the Earth. Over the past several decades, attention has focused on recycling, automobile emissions, and deforestation. Most recently, the volume of plastic that can be found in the oceans and along coastlines has raised alarms about the serious threat that plastic poses to marine ecosystems. In April 2018, researchers from the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) published data from a 30-year study on plastic pollution in the oceans.

The study, published in Marine Policy, focuses on the plastic debris pollution that is now frequently found in the deepest waters on earth. Alarmingly, the researchers reported observing a plastic bag at a depth of 10898 m in the Mariana Trench in the western North Pacific.

To facilitate ongoing research on the volume of plastic debris and its effects on delicate marine environments, the researchers created a database of the locations of plastic debris on the seafloor. The database provides access to data collected from more than 5000 deep-sea dives, including the locations, types, and photos of debris.

As the deep sea is inaccessible to almost all humans, the garbage and plastic debris from human activities that find their way to these remote areas are truly out of sight, out of mind. However, thanks to this important research, the general public can see and track the garbage that is accumulating in the remotest areas on Earth.

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