Plastic waste floating in the North Pacific has increased 100-fold over the last 40 years. In the period 1972 to 1987, no microplastic was found in the majority of samples taken for testing, said the paper in the Royal Society Journal Biology Letters.
Now around 13,000 pieces of plastic litter are found in every square kilometre of sea. The largest concentration is found in the swirling mass of waste known as the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre (NPSG) or the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, is roughly the size of Texas. "The abundance of small human-produced plastic particles in the NPSG has increased by 100 times over the last four decades," said a statement on the findings of researchers from the University of California.
US scientists warn the killer soup of microplastic particles smaller than five millimeters (one inch) threatened to alter the open ocean's natural environment. The plastic particles are being vacuumed up by marine life and birds, and the mix is heavy with toxic chemicals.
The floating plastic is providing a new habitat for ocean insects called "sea-skaters" which prey on plankton and fish eggs and are in turn fed on by seabirds, turtles and fish. The insect, which spends its entire life at sea, needs a hard surface on which to lay its eggs previously limited to relatively rare items like floating wood, pumice and sea shells. Sea skaters eat zooplankton or fish eggs and are in turn eaten by birds.
Perhaps other animals can also adapt to the new habitat as well...