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Pan-European Microplastics Meeting Hears of Impacts and Outputs From Research Projects

13th October 2023
Since 2014, 15 European countries and Brazil have committed €18.2 million for 10 pan-European research projects on the ecological aspects of microplastics in the marine environment under the framework of JPI Oceans

The final meeting of JPI Oceans Joint Action on ‘Ecological Aspects of Microplastics’ was held in Galway on 14-15 September, as previously reported on

During the two-day event hosted by the Marine Institute, research teams from the six funded JPI Oceans projects detailed their findings and summarised the impacts and outputs of the projects — including scientific publications, education materials, policy briefings for stakeholders and monitoring tools.

The combination of warming sea temperatures, ocean acidification and the accumulation of microplastics represents a substantial threat to marine life and ecosystems and, potentially, to human health.

Microfibres and microplastics are everywhere in the marine environment, with particles from car tyres and cigarette butts as being of particular concern, owing to their toxicity.

Over time, microplastic particles degrade and particles become smaller and are much more difficult to measure. Studies show that biofilms that form on these microplastic particles — termed the “plastisphere” — harbour viruses and microorganisms with unknown impacts on organisms that consume them.

Another study described how jellyfish species may serve as a good indicator of the level of microplastics pollution based on the accumulation of ingested plastic found in jellyfish samples, although further research is also needed to determine the long-term effects on jellyfish in terms of their growth and reproductive functioning.

Attendees at the recent final meeting of JPI Oceans Joint Action on ‘Ecological Aspects of Microplastics’, hosted by the Marine Institute in Galway on 14-15 SeptemberAttendees at the recent final meeting of JPI Oceans Joint Action on ‘Ecological Aspects of Microplastics’, hosted by the Marine Institute in Galway on 14-15 September

The meeting also provided an opportunity to connect the research outputs with key EU initiatives addressing plastic pollution.

In the first session of the meeting, John Hanus, the European Commission’s director general of innovation, and Luis Francisco Ruiz-Orejon of the Commission’s Joint Research Centre detailed the data gathered on marine litter and microplastics to date and the importance of the joint effort from research and monitoring teams across Europe continuing to ensure the ‘Good Environmental Status’ of our oceans.

Furthermore, potential cooperation opportunities between JPI Oceans-funded research partners and the European Commission were presented by highlighting the activities of the EU Mission ‘Restore our Ocean and Waters’ and a range of existing and forthcoming EU legislation to tackle the problem of marine litter.

Dr Niall McDonough, chair of JPI Oceans and director of policy, innovation and research services at the Marine Institute said: “This meeting was a great success. The researchers presented the results of almost a decade of work on the sources, spread and impacts of microplastic pollution in the marine environment.

“This issue has only come to the fore in the past 15 years and we are playing catch-up in terms of the science and the measures we can take to address the problem.

“The meeting also demonstrated the key role that JPI Oceans plays in bringing the best international experts together to conduct cutting-edge research that has a direct benefit to society. I congratulate the research teams on their outstanding work. But they also gave us a clear message that there is a lot more to do.”

Published in Marine Science Team

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Marine Science Perhaps it is the work of the Irish research vessel RV Celtic Explorer out in the Atlantic Ocean that best highlights the essential nature of marine research, development and sustainable management, through which Ireland is developing a strong and well-deserved reputation as an emerging centre of excellence. From Wavebob Ocean energy technology to aquaculture to weather buoys and oil exploration these pages document the work of Irish marine science and how Irish scientists have secured prominent roles in many European and international marine science bodies.


At A Glance – Ocean Facts

  • 71% of the earth’s surface is covered by the ocean
  • The ocean is responsible for the water cycle, which affects our weather
  • The ocean absorbs 30% of the carbon dioxide added to the atmosphere by human activity
  • The real map of Ireland has a seabed territory ten times the size of its land area
  • The ocean is the support system of our planet.
  • Over half of the oxygen we breathe was produced in the ocean
  • The global market for seaweed is valued at approximately €5.4 billion
  • · Coral reefs are among the oldest ecosystems in the world — at 230 million years
  • 1.9 million people live within 5km of the coast in Ireland
  • Ocean waters hold nearly 20 million tons of gold. If we could mine all of the gold from the ocean, we would have enough to give every person on earth 9lbs of the precious metal!
  • Aquaculture is the fastest growing food sector in the world – Ireland is ranked 7th largest aquaculture producer in the EU
  • The Atlantic Ocean is the second largest ocean in the world, covering 20% of the earth’s surface. Out of all the oceans, the Atlantic Ocean is the saltiest
  • The Pacific Ocean is the largest ocean in the world. It’s bigger than all the continents put together
  • Ireland is surrounded by some of the most productive fishing grounds in Europe, with Irish commercial fish landings worth around €200 million annually
  • 97% of the earth’s water is in the ocean
  • The ocean provides the greatest amount of the world’s protein consumed by humans
  • Plastic affects 700 species in the oceans from plankton to whales.
  • Only 10% of the oceans have been explored.
  • 8 million tonnes of plastic enter the ocean each year, equal to dumping a garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute.
  • 12 humans have walked on the moon but only 3 humans have been to the deepest part of the ocean.

(Ref: Marine Institute)

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