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The influx of marine litter into our oceans is staggering, estimated to range between 4.8 to 12.7 million tons annually. Among the myriad components contributing to this environmental challenge, microplastics pose a significant threat. These minuscule particles result from the persistent degradation of larger plastic objects, subjected to environmental factors such as sun exposure and the force of waves.

Microplastic fragments have become pervasive on the sea surface, particularly within the neustonic habitat, leading to escalating concentrations in oceans and seas, as evidenced by numerous publications. The distribution and abundance of plastic debris exhibit pronounced variability, heavily influenced by hydrodynamics, both in the open ocean and shoreline waters. Oceanic currents play a pivotal role in creating dispersion patterns, facilitating the transport of plastic materials to remote areas, including islands and polar regions, far removed from primary sources of pollution.

The repercussions of this pollution extend to the marine ecosystem, with the ingestion of microplastics emerging as a primary concern for various species, including birds, plankton, and fish. This phenomenon becomes a concerning cycle as toxic substances are adsorbed and subsequently accumulate in the tissues of predators within the food chain.

To comprehensively evaluate the prevalence of microplastics, our mission employs a meticulous methodology. A Manta Trawl, equipped with a 333 μm mesh net, is utilized to sample the top 25cm of the sea surface. This strategic sampling design incorporates three replicates for each of the 15 designated sites. Linear transects, lasting twenty minutes each, are georeferenced from start to end points and conducted at a speed of 2 knots to ensure optimal balance of the Manta Trawl during sampling.

Transects are meticulously planned, taking into account variables such as distance from the coast, proximity to ice blocks, and sea currents. This planning involves leveraging oceanographic forecasts and modeling techniques to navigate through the complex dynamics of marine environments. This comprehensive approach ensures the mission's effectiveness in gathering accurate data on microplastic contamination levels, source streams, and the consequential anthropogenic impact on marine ecosystems. The World Marine Organization's support underscores the global significance of this collaborative effort to address and mitigate the adverse effects of microplastics in our oceans.

Inquinamento ambientale
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