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Ocean Safety 2021 - LEADERBOARD

No Plastic Waste voyage update 9th May 2022

by Stephen Davis 30 May 02:11 UTC
Peri Banou II © Stephen Davis

In 2019, then 81-year-old Jon Sanders undertook an 11th circumnavigation, a voyage which he combined with a scientific endeavour -- to sample water from the oceans for microplastics analysis.

At long last the final report of the voyage of Peri Banou II is available. At the outset, we had hoped that the results of the water sampling would be published soon after each leg of the voyage. As you will recall, Jon couriered the samples to Curtin University after reaching each port. Various problems ensued with the analysis beginning with breakdowns in equipment which was both costly and time-consuming. Covid hitting mid-Atlantic complicated the situation with quarantine at St Marten lasting three months. The anticipated eight months duration of the voyage became 15 months before Jon returned to Fremantle and handed over the final samples from the last leg of the voyage. Curtin University continued analysing the samples with the final report now published and available here.

In summary, the results set a baseline for the amount of microplastic in the top layer of the oceans in the Southern Hemisphere. The amount of microplastic detected seems to be much the same as sampling in other isolated attempts to measure oceanic microplastic levels. Jon's No Plastic Oceans voyage is of course the most comprehensive to date and sets a global standard not previously available. The microplastic levels appear to be marginally higher in the Indian and Atlantic Oceans. The highest level detected was off the Brazilian coast which may be in part due to the plume of outflow from the Amazon River. The main current flows from the Brazilian coast east to Africa carrying discharge from the Amazon. Jon intersected this current in which two samples were taken. Surprisingly a similarly high level of microplastic was found in the sample taken in Sydney Harbour and inshore on the West Australian coast. These two higher results are likely due to a high presence of microplastics inshore and should not be considered typical of the adjacent offshore areas. Nonetheless, human populations are consuming marine species from these inshore areas and this may be a matter that would warrant further monitoring.

The voyage has been an outstanding success and the analytical results have delivered the global baseline the project set out to establish.

The success of the project has only been possible with the support from our many wonderful donors, some of whom contributed funding, others contributed equipment or their services. Minderoo has played an important role as the major voyage sponsor. Donations have been large and small, from old and young, from across Australia and around the world. You have made possible an important, history-making voyage that makes a significant contribution to understanding and managing our oceans. Thank you.

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This article has been provided by the courtesy of Ocean Cruising Club.

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