Using the ocean the sun and the wind as its sole sources of energy, the catamaran of the Swiss foundation has left the port of Lorient on 9 April for a five-year expedition
. Scientists from five JPI Oceans member countries will join the mission at Bermuda, Cuba and Guadeloupe from June to October this year.
The solar powered vessel will host research partners from Vigo University, Bordeaux University, University of Antwerp and Marche Polytechnic University of Ancona and the Norwegian Geotechnical Institute involved in the EPHEMARE
projects. On these two missions, the researchers will be sampling microplastics in the water column, sediment and beaches and collecting endemic marine organisms such as fish, crustaceans, molluscs and bivalves.
The samples collected by the WEATHER-MIC project will initially processed on board, after which it will be sent to laboratories in Norway (NGI), Sweden (Stockholm University) and Germany (UFZ and IKTS Dresden) for analyses. The scientists will then quantify the microplastics and investigate it for signs of weathering. Of particular interest is a comparison of the signs of weathering in microplastic found in the new areas and other samples collected in the cooler waters of Scandinavia. As part of the initiative, WEATHER-MIC is also forming research collaborations with local environmental researchers in Cuba, providing an opportunity to increase European-Caribbean collaborations on the topic. In general the campaign will help address the central goal of WEATHER-MIC to better understand and identify how the weathering of microplastics changes their distribution in the ocean, and how this affects their environmental risk.
The EPHEMARE project will focus on the effects of microplastics on planktonic and benthic organisms. Apart from beach sand, sediment and water column, EPHEMARE will sample key species representative of local habitats in an extension of the work currently conducted in Oslo Fjord, Scheldt estuary, Bay of Biscay, Algarve (Portugal) and Adriatic Sea. Back at Bordeaux and Vigo the toxicity of the plastics collected will be tested in laboratory using invertebrate and fish larvae. Although polymers are non-toxic, many plastic additives cause concern because of their deleterious effects on those highly sensitive early life stages, and EPHEMARE scientists have adapted international standard procedures to be applied to marine organisms.
Both research projects will also use the Race for Water Odyssey to create local awareness of the risks and possible solutions related to microplastics, and promote research and action on this topic.
The five year Odyssey around the world is an initiative from Race for Water
, a Swiss Foundation which aims to identify and implement solutions that will give end-of-life plastic a value and create new sources of income for the people most affected by pollution. This second expedition will take place from 2017 – 2021, where from France it will head West, through Panama and hold stopovers at the Olympics in Tokyo and the World Expo in Dubai. In that way the foundation will create awareness and inform people around the world of the urgent need to stem the flow of plastic pollution in our waterways. With its unique vessel, harnessing both solar and wind power, the foundation also aims to accelerate the clean energy transition worldwide.