Plastic Contamination of the Oceans: Should we care and what are we doing about it?
Abstract: Hardly a day passes without media proclamations about the crisis facing our oceans because of plastic pollution. Although seabirds and mammals are killed and maimed in large numbers, the evidence is not strong that there is a crisis or even that fundamental damage to the marine ecosystem is imminent. We are at a very early stage in our understanding of firstly, the magnitude of exposure to this contamination and secondly, the harms caused. Nevertheless, there is the potential for serious damage to the marine environment, damage which may be subtle and pervasive and extremely difficult to reverse. This seminar will give a personal perspective of the nature of the problem, the ways in which damage may be caused and will present novel data on contamination in the Atlantic by microplastics (1-1000 µm diameter). It will outline further research which is urgently required if we are to make evidence-based decisions to change the way in which society manufactures, uses and disposes of this valuable and extraordinary material.