How many microplastics are really in the sea?

We will have a preliminary answer on May 15th if the weather is good! On that day, the Barcelona Foundation for Ocean Sailing’s (FNOB) boat named "King Fisher" will leave the harbour of Barcelona and go for a half day tour to measure the concentration of microplastics in the sea within 25 miles distance from the Spanish coast.

The boat, an IMOCA 60 yacht of 18 metre length, will be equipped with LEITAT's highly sensitive microplastics sensor capable of measuring the amount of microplastics such as PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) and polystyrene in the surface water, between 20cm and 100 cm depth.

The exceptional thing about this testing exercise is that the sensors installed on the boat will continuously transmit information via wireless connection to the servers of COMMON SENSE researchers. The entire data collection is automatically done and the boat's skipper does not need to intervene at any point the process.

This experiment will be repeated with a scientific research vessel a few months later in the Baltic Sea, under the guidance of project partners of The Institute of Oceanology Polish Academy of Science (IOPAN). The microplastics sensor could even potentially sail the high seas if the Kingfisher boat gets selected for the 2016 edition of the "Vendée Globe", a round the world race which starts in November. This means that the King Fisher will sail around the world with the sensors installed and track microplastics concentration for the length of its journey.

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Caption: Partners from LEITAT and FNOB prepare the Microplastics sensor for testing. Credit: FNOB

EC flag The research leading to these results has received funding from the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7 /2007-2013) under grant agreement no 614155. This publication reflects the views only of the author, and the European Union cannot be held responsible for any use which maybe made of the information contained therein.