At this meeting hosted by the Marine Institute, JPI Oceans successfully concluded its ground-breaking Joint Action on the "Ecological Aspects of Microplastics". Over 102 participants from countries spanning from Brazil to Estonia converged both physically and virtually, signalling the global importance of this pressing issue.
During the two-day event, the research teams from the six funded JPI Oceans projects (ANDROMEDA, HOTMIC, FACTS, MicroplastiX, i-plastic and RESPONSE projects) detailed their findings and summarised the impacts and outputs of the projects, including scientific publications, education materials, policy briefings for stakeholders, monitoring tools including the ANDROMEDA app.
The combination of warming sea temperatures, ocean acidification and the accumulation of microplastics represents a substantial threat to marine life and ecosystems and, potentially, to human health. Microfibers and microplastics are everywhere in the marine environment, with particles from car tyres and cigarette butts as being of particular concern, owing to their toxicity. Over time microplastic particles degrade and particles become smaller and are much more difficult to measure. Studies show that biofilms that form on these microplastic particles - termed the “plastisphere” - harbour viruses and microorganisms with unknown impacts on organisms that consume them. Another study described how jellyfish species may serve as a good indicator of the level of microplastics pollution based on the accumulation of ingested plastic found in jellyfish samples, although further research is also needed to determine the long-term effects on jellyfish in terms of their growth and reproductive functioning.
The meeting also provided an opportunity to connect the research outputs with key EU initiatives addressing plastic pollution. In the first session of the meeting John Hanus, DG Research & Innovation, European Commission and Luis Francisco Ruiz-Orejon, Joint Research Centre, European Commission detailed the data gathered on marine litter and microplastics to date and the importance of the joint effort from research and monitoring teams across Europe continuing to ensure Good Environmental Status of our oceans. Furthermore, potential cooperation opportunities between JPI Oceans funded research partners and the European Commission were presented by highlighting the activities of the EU Mission “Restore our Ocean and Waters”, and a range of existing and forthcoming EU legislation to tackle the problem of marine litter.
Dr Niall McDonough, Chair of JPI Oceans and Director of Policy, Innovation & Research Services at the Marine Institute, said that “This meeting was a great success. The researchers presented the results of almost a decade of work on the sources, spread and impacts of microplastic pollution in the marine environment. This issue has only come to the fore in the past fifteen years and we are playing catch-up in terms of the science and the measures we can take to address the problem. The meeting also demonstrated the key role that JPI Oceans plays in bringing the best international experts together to conduct cutting edge research that has a direct benefit to society. I congratulate the research teams on their outstanding work. But they also gave us a clear message that there is a lot more to do.”
Aengus McMahon Photography © Marine Institute
Irish partners in these projects are supported by the Marine Institute and the Department of Housing, Planning & Local Government funded by the Irish Government under the framework of JPI Oceans.
Notes to the Editor:
The Marine Institute is the state agency responsible for marine research, technology development and innovation in Ireland. It provides government, public agencies and the maritime industry with a range of scientific, advisory and economic development services that inform policy-making, regulation and the sustainable management and growth of Ireland's marine resources. www.marine.ie
JPI Oceans is a pan-European platform aiming to increase efficiency and impact of research and innovation for sustainably healthy and productive seas and oceans. Our member states’ national strategies and priorities are the main building blocks for a joint Strategy Framework to address marine and maritime issues. We are a platform of European countries for marine and maritime research and innovation. Our members are ministries and funding agencies that develop, fund and implement national research agendas. www.jpi-oceans.eu