“Tiny pieces of microplastics eventually enter our food chain through marine plankton, sneaking their way into the fish on our plates and causing health risks to both fish and people.”
Marine litter is deadly. Fishing gear and other plastic materials entangle marine animals, asphyxiate coral reefs, destroy mangroves and degrade many more ecosystems. Over time, all that plastic fragments and turns into microplastics so minuscule they are often imperceptive to the naked eye. The tiny pieces eventually enter our food chain through marine plankton, sneaking their way into the fish on our plates and causing health risks to both fish and people.
Microplastics can indeed act as vectors for bacteria, viruses, heavy metals, and toxins. A scientific study from 2019 posits that the average American ingests between 39,000 and 52,000 microplastic particles yearly, with potential negative impacts on human health: from endocrine disruption to cancer. Equally worrying, microplastics reduce the growth and survival of fish and shellfish, depriving coastal communities of their livelihoods.
While Ocean cleanups offer a solution to the present pollution, biodegradable fishing equipment would prevent future ghost gears – dropping lines, traps, and nets drifting across seas long after use. It will sustainably end the fishing industry’s plastic leakage into our oceans and plates. And down the line, the technology could have other applications on land, including replacing fossil-based mulches that pollute soils.