Levels of marine debris, including microplastics, are largely un-documented in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. Broad scale monitoring efforts are required to understand the distribution, abundance and ecological implications of microplastic pollution. A method of continuous sampling was developed to be conducted in conjunction with a wide range of vessel operations to maximise vessel time. Transects covering a total of 12,700 km were sampled through continuous monitoring of open ocean sub-surface water resulting in 470 samples. Items classified as potential plastics were identified in 94% of samples. A total of 2315 particles were identified, 89% were less than 5mm in length classifying them as microplastics. Average plastic abundance in the Northeast Atlantic was calculated as 2.46 particles m(-3). This is the first report to demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of microplastic pollution in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean and to present a potential method for standardised monitoring of microplastic pollution.
Keywords: Continuous monitoring; Fibres; Neuston; Plastic; Sub-surface.
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