Microplastics found throughout archipelago

… on all seven monitored beaches in Madeira and Porto Santo

Researchers examining a beach in Porto Santo for microplastics

The Diario reports that on all seven beaches in Madeira and Porto Santo that are part of the  IMPLAMAC project – ‘Assessment of the impact of microplastics and emerging pollutants on the coasts of Macaronesia’, small plastic particles have been found that reduce the quality of the marine ecosystems where they exist and can affect the daily life and security of the people who use these spaces.

The preliminary results of this project financed by the EU Regional Development Fund FEDER will be made known this morning, at the Colégio dos Jesuítas, in a ceremony that will be attended by Teófilo Cunha, regional secretary with the portfolio of the sea and fisheries.

As a preview and to understand the impact that these particles that vary in size between 1 and 5 millimeters can have, the Diario spoke with Soledad Alvarez, a researcher linked to MARE-Madeira (Marine and Environmental sciences centre) who has been in charge of collecting and treating the microplastic samples made on seven selected sandy beaches in Madeira.

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“Here in Madeira we sampled microplastics on seven beaches in the archipelago, four of them in Madeira and three in Porto Santo”, she began by clarifying, pointing out that the beaches of Seixal (in Seixal), Formosa (in São Martinho – Funchal), Maiata (Porto da Cruz) and Prainha (Caniçal). On the ‘Golden Island’ the beaches of Calheta, Vila and Docas (next to Porto de Abrigo) were chosen. Microplastics were found on all of them, even so, “not large concentrations, compared to other beaches in Macaronesia”.

Asked to indicate the beaches in the Region where some accumulation of these small particles could be identified, Soledad Alvarez mentions the beaches of Seixal, Maiata and Docas, the latter in Porto Santo, as those with the worst results.

The researcher tries not to be alarmist, although she does not hide that this is a problem that also affects the Region, similarly to what happens in all parts of the globe. Microplastics “are ubiquitous, they are in all environments”, even citing studies and evidence that point to the presence of these microparticles in the human body, namely in feces, lungs, blood or placentas.

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In marine environments, one of the biggest problems is that these small pieces of plastic are mistaken for food by different organisms, namely fish, considering them ‘fast-food’ of simple and easy access, being able, in this way, to enter the food chain human life, as pointed out by some scientific works.

The cause of this problem has been more than identified and Soledad Alvarez sums it up in “ worldwide plastic production”, noting that “a greater amount of plastic is produced each year”, which is an element present in our daily lives. -day, in virtually every product we use. And the use given to plastics, with a short useful life, does not favorably contribute to minimizing the impact of production, aggravating the situation.

Despite this ‘dark’ scenario, the researcher considers that the “battle is not lost” and even though it is not possible to minimize the impacts, it is within our power not to let the problem get worse. “We will have to make a big effort”, she acknowledges, starting with reducing the amount of plastic produced.

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Praia das Docas, next to Porto de Abrigo, in Porto Santo, has been one of the beaches with the most microplastics. , Photo: Mare-Madeira

Although there is already European and national legislation that restricts the use of certain types of plastic, “there is still much more to be done”, she considers. And given the data already gathered within the scope of this project, which began in July 2020, Soledad Alvarez sees the relevance of continuing monitoring of this kind, in order to follow up and be able to define a pattern of evolution, assessing what type of particles will be in
cause.

The work team, which includes researchers from the four Macaronesian archipelagos, has sought to create an observatory that can generate quantitative and qualitative data on the impact of microplastics and different pollutants on beaches in different regions. The survey has been carried out on the
sands and waters of 46 beaches in Madeira, Azores, Canary Islands and Cape Verde, in a program that already includes, so far, more than 400 samples and almost 4,000 samples analysed.

Within the scope of the same project, the incidence of microplastics in some types of fish and their effect on food chains and ecosystems has also been
evaluated, with 800 specimens having been analysed.

As Soledad Alvarez notes, the work carried out has allowed for better public knowledge about plastic pollution, including raising awareness among the population, namely through dissemination, training and environmental education actions on the marine spaces of the four archipelagos.

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