A new paper says that both shallow and deep-water coral reefs, even in remote areas, are impacted by plastic. Most of the larger items are from fishing “ghost gear” such as nets. Food wrappers and plastic bottles were also common.
Plastic is an “emerging threat” to reefs which have already been stressed by the impacts of climate change, pollution, and overfishing.
The study examined 84 reefs at more than 25 locations including uninhabited atolls and reefs at depths of 150 metres across the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans.
Anthropogenic debris was found in 77 out of the 84 reefs surveyed, including in some of Earth’s most remote and near-pristine reefs, such as in uninhabited central Pacific atolls.
The Comores, which together with Mauritius, Seychelles, and Madagascar form part of the group of island states in the Western Indian Ocean, is the worst-affected location with nearly 84,500 items of plastic in each square kilometre.
Pinheiro, H.T., MacDonald, C., Santos, R.G. et al. Plastic pollution on the world’s coral reefs. Nature 619, 311–316 (2023). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41586-023-06113-5