Paddle surfing for science on microplastic pollution

, Uviedo Oriol, Higueras Sara, Ballesteros Maria, Curto Xavier, De Haan William P., Sanchez-Vidal Anna.

Research on microplastics has rapidly expanded in recent years and has led to the discovery of vast amounts of microplastics floating offshore in all main oceanic gyres and including the Mediterranean Sea. However, there is a lack of information from a few meters from the coastline where the largest plastic mass flux is suspected to occur. The reason behind is the general use of manta trawls towed by boats or research vessels to obtain samples, which hinders nearshore sampling. We have designed a manta trawl to collect samples in the near-shore from any type of recreational sports floating gear like kayaks, sailboats, rowing boats, windsurf boards and others. Data generated is comparable to that obtained with traditional scientific equipment towed from boats. During one year, starting from October 2020, 10 social, environmental or sports associations along the NW Mediterranean coast will be acquiring scientific samples in the nearshore within the frame of two citizen science monitoring projects lead by the Spanish delegation of the non-governmental organization Surfrider Foundation Europe and the University of Barcelona. The projects “Paddle Surfing for Science” and “PlastiPlancton BCN” represent a paradigm shift in microplastic research, allowing to fill the gap in knowledge of this transition coastal area, and actively involving citizens in the generation of new monitoring data. This will allow to promote public understanding of science, overcome costly research sampling of the nearshore, and raise awareness on plastic pollution in the marine environment.

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