The amount of plastic in the oceans is expected to triple in just ten years, a government report warns today.
This key environmental problem risks being ‘out of sight, out of mind’ with more known about the surface of Mars and the Moon than the deep sea bed, it added.
The toll of plastic pollution in the sea could be 150million tonnes by 2025 – treble the 50million tonnes estimated in 2015.
Scientists behind today’s report said the oceans are vital to Britain as 95 per cent of the UK’s international trade travels by water, while the internet is connected by underwater cables (file photo)
The alert comes days after a Daily Mail investigation revealed how microplastics are contaminating the food we eat and the air we breathe. Fish fillet samples from eight shops showed worrying levels of the tiny particles. The research, which continues a decade of campaigning against plastic, prompted calls for action from the United Nations, ministers and health campaigners.
Scientists behind today’s report said the oceans are vital to Britain as 95 per cent of the UK’s international trade travels by water, while the internet is connected by underwater cables. Our oceans also store carbon dioxide and heat while producing oxygen and food, the Foresight Future of the Sea Report stressed.
It also examined opportunities for Britain offered by the global maritime economy. The value of this is set to double to £2trillion by 2030 in areas where the UK is a world leader, such as offshore wind power.
The toll of plastic pollution in the sea could be 150million tonnes by 2025 – treble the 50million tonnes estimated in 2015 (file photo)
On the growing blight of plastic pollution, the document warned this will leave a physical presence, accumulating on coasts or in particular areas of ocean.
Professor Ian Boyd, chief scientific adviser for the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, said scientists have only just begun to examine the toxic effects of plastic breaking down and ending up inside marine organisms.
He added: ‘Even in the absence of research, there is a precautionary principle to take here. We should minimise the amount of plastic, both macro-plastic and micro-plastic, going into the marine environment in order to make sure that if there are toxic effects, those are being dealt with.’
The report also warned plastic litter on coasts can increase the risk of dangerous bacteria in the water, such as E.coli.
Pointing to the potential of oceans, the report said they could provide new medicines, minerals and energy (file photo)
It said efforts to reduce plastic pollution should focus on stopping it entering the sea, developing new biodegradable materials and public awareness campaigns.
Professor Ed Hill, executive director of the National Oceanography Centre, said it was time to stop thinking of what goes on below the surface as ‘out of sight, out of mind’ and have more of a ‘Mission to Planet Ocean’ approach. He added: ‘When people see what is in the ocean, and the Blue Planet series and so on have helped, their reaction is twofold – wonder at what is there and horror at what we’re potentially doing to it.
‘We know less about the bottom of the sea than the Moon or Mars but nothing lives on the Moon or Mars … things live in our ocean and they’re vital to us.’
Pointing to the potential of oceans, the report said they could provide new medicines, minerals and energy. There are also opportunities for robotics, artificial intelligence and automated technology to improve understanding of the oceans and how best to manage them, it added.