With the aid of M/V Brigitte Bardot in Sardinia, Sea Shepherd Italy has embarked on ‘Campaign Pelagos’ to support scientific research in collaboration with the University of Siena and the CIMA Foundation.
As of 17 June, Sea Shepherd will assist researchers in carrying out photo-identification of whales, dolphins and porpoises south-east of the Sanctuary of Pelagos while recording data on the presence of plastic matter found in the sea. In the initial phase of the project, M/V Brigitte Bardot will serve as the operations base for all research activities. The primary goal of the campaign is to deepen our understanding of the effects of micro plastic pollution on marine wildlife.
Photo-identification is a widely used technique in the study of cetaceans because it’s non-invasive and it allows for the identification of individual specimens among the different species. It also helps to identify the spatial and temporal distribution of the populations, the numbers, reproductive success, habitat, behavior, journeys and social structure.
Plastic in the sea
Research will focus on micro plastic fragments of less than 5 mm in diameter, which will be collected using a surface trawler driven by M/V Brigitte Bardot. As well as being a pollutant, micro plastics act as a unifying agent for all contaminants produced by human activities on the ground.
The effects of these compounds (DDT, PCBs, etc) on local fauna range from carcinogenicity to the destruction of the immune system, as well as disorders of the endocrine system. In addition, these substances persist in the environment for decades and enter the food chain via fat deposits in these mammals.
The data obtained from this investigation will provide a clearer picture of the situation in the study area, and will inform us of the action necessary to safeguard the health of our oceans and seas.
*Image credit: OceanCare via Wikimedia Commons CC BY-SA 4.0