More so than at any previous time, there is a heightened awareness of the amount of plastic in the environment, it's spread to even remote localities and the multiple influences of this on organisms. In the austral summer of 2007/08 Greenpeace and British Antarctic Survey ships (MV Esperanza and RRS James Clark Ross respectively) conducted the first co-ordinated joint marine debris survey of the planet's most remote seas around East and West Antarctica to reveal floating macroplastics. With observations also made from the ice patrol vessel HMS Endurance in the same season and seabed samples collected from the RRS James Clark Ross, this was the widest survey for plastics ever undertaken around Antarctica. Main features: The 2008 visit of RRS James Clark Ross to the Amundsen Sea breached two last frontiers; the last and most remote sea from which biological samples and plastic debris have been reported. A plastic cup and two fishing buoys were seen in the Durmont D'Urville and Davis seas while two pieces of plastic packaging and a fishing buoy were observed in the Amundsen Sea. Agassiz trawls revealed rich biodiversity on the Amundsen (and south Bellingshausen) seabed but no sunken plastic pieces. We found no microplastics in five epibenthic sledge samples (300 mu m mesh) from the Amundsen seabed. The seabeds immediately surrounding continental Antarctica are probably the last environments on the planet yet to be reached by plastics, but with pieces floating into the surface of the Amundsen Sea this seems likely to change soon. Our knowledge now touches every sea but so does our legacy of lost and discarded plastic. (C) 2010 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.
Authors: Barnes, David K.A., Walters, Adam, Gonçalves, Leandra