Chasing pellets : an expedition against plastic pollution

10/09/21

The crew of the Chasing Pellets expedition is back from their sea journey, after spending ten days sailing the Western Mediterreanean Sea, in order to determine the levels of microplastic pollution, in the form of plastic pellets. And they did not bring good news. Surfrider Foundation Europe in partnership with the organization Good Karma Projects, call on Spanish decision-makers and citizens to take decisive action on this critical environmental issue.  

An expedition against the invisible pollution of the Ocean

When we think about plastic pollution in the Ocean, the first item we usually have in mind is the plastic bag. However, some types of plastics are almost invisible to the naked eye, and those under 5 millimeters are therefore labelled as microplastic pollution. Which is the case of industrial plastic pellets, also called mermaid tears. Despite their poetic name, these micro spheres of plastic represent a major source of pollution, causing irreversible damage to marine life, while posing a potential threat to human health.  

Dedicated for many years to fight plastic pellets pollution accross Europe, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Good Karma Projects sailed out on June 19, 2021, in order to assess the level of plastic pellet pollution between Tarragona and the Balearic Islands, in Spain.  


Story of an unprecedented journey 

10 days, 26 hours of sailing, 5 crew members and only a few hours of sleep... This is what it took to the Chasing Pellets expedition to cross the Western Mediterranean Sea, through Tarragona, Majorca and the Balearic Islands. The objective ? Based on the assumption that plastic pellets could be spilled hundreds of kilometers away from their origin, the members of the expedition aimed to assess the amount of pellets found in this area. Equipped with a Manta Trawl - a special net-, they explored the Spanish coast in order to collect various samples of microplastics. In the meantime of the analysis of samples, some detailed observations realized during the Chasing Pellets expedition are already available. 

Watch the full video or read our last article 


The observations of the Chasing Pellets expedition : bad news for the Ocean  

“I knew the situation was urgent, but it was worse than expected”, explains Simon Witt, head of Surfrider Foundation Europe’s Coastal Defenders Program and crew member of the expedition. The observations realized during the expedition are quite alarming. In fact, the crew members found some plastic pellets up to 40 miles away from Tarragona and Majorca. The crew also stopped at some beaches to realize clean-ups and to collect data. They estimated for instance that the amount of pellets on the Cavalleria beach in Menorca was up to 6000 particles per square meter. And this is just one beach, so how massive could this pollution be at the national and European level? 

To learn more on plastic pellets, read our last Report 

Currently, the voluntary international program from the industry sector to prevent pellet losses in the environment called, Operation Clean Sweep (OCS), has proven its inefficiency, as there is still a colossal amount of pellets found on beaches. the OCS should instead be replaced by a binding regulatory mechanism at the European Union level, thus committing targeted industries to respect strict guidelines in order to prevent the loss of pellets in natural environments.


From the sailyacht to the Spanish Ministry of the Environment 

The Chasing Pellets expedition has spotlighted the urgent need to better adress the issue of microplastic pollution. It is key to raise awareness of citizens on one hand, and on the other hand, to urge public and private decision makers to implement adequate measures. Building on the expedition's outcomes, Surfrider Foundation Europe and Good Karma Projects have sent on September 10, 2021, an official letter to Ms. Teresa Ribera, the Spanish Ministry of the Environment. By this letter, the two organizations wish to alert the Spanish government on the urgency of plastic pellet pollution, and to get binding measures at the European level, as plastic pollution remains a transnational threat. 

If you would like to react to this article, contact us at hello@surfrider.eu 

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