The Marianas Trench is the deepest trench in the world, at 11,034 meters (36,201 feet) deep. If placed in the trench, Mount Everest’s peak would still come up 2,000 meters short of reaching the ocean’s surface. Though the Marianas Trench was established as a Marine National Monument, plastic pollution has managed to find its way to the bottom of the trench, where explorers have found it littering the ocean floor.
As part of an expedition to the Marianas Trench in 2014, a team of scientists discovered a new species. Located about 6,900 meters below the ocean surface, one particular new specimen of crustacean was alarmingly already polluted with plastic before it was even known to science. As a result, the scientists dubbed the new species Eurythenes plasticus.
With support from WWF in analyzing the newly discovered deep-sea amphipod specimens, scientists found a 0.65mm large microfiber, 80% similar to PET (Polyethylene terephthalate) in one of the individuals. PET is a substance found in a variety of commonly used household items, such as water bottles and workout clothes.
More than 270 species of wildlife have been adversely affected by plastic pollution. About 90% of seabirds are estimated to have plastic in their stomach, and more than 100,000 marine mammals are killed by plastic debris each year. While plastic contamination in animals is not a new occurrence, unfortunately, the presence of plastic pollutants in a newly discovered species, in an area of our planet that we have yet to fully explore, makes this news particularly unsettling.