“I look at the sea, I pause my sight on its vastness and I think it is one of the greatest freedoms to protect”. These are the words of Gioele, one of the researchers of Marine Biology of the University of Messina.
Every year between 150 and 500 thousand tons of macroplastics and between 70 and 130 thousand tons of microplastics end up in the seas of Europe. Their main destination? The Mediterranean Sea. Plastic represents 95% of waste in the open sea, on the seabed and on the beaches and causes over 90% of damage to marine wildlife. Globally, there are about 700 marine species threatened by plastic. Large pieces of plastic injure, strangle and often cause the death of animals, including protected species. But it is the microplastics, smaller and more insidious fragments, that reach record concentrations in the Mediterranean Sea where they estimate 1.25 million fragments per km2, almost 4 times higher than those recorded on the “plastic island” of the northern Pacific.
The Strait of Messina should be an earthly paradise and should be one of the cleanest sea area in the world, due to its very strong currents. However it is not. Hundreds of meters deep between the Strait’s marine Canyons there is a lot of waste. The macroplastic is deteriorating very slowly becoming microplastic and then nanoplastic. These particles are ingested as food by fish and could soon present a real risk for humans.
Fishing activities also suffer from the pollution and in the last twenty years there has been
a serious decrease in the catch. Swordfish fishing and fishing with “lampara” (two unique
and ancient fishing tecniques in the area) are among the fishing activities that are risking extinction. According to the fishermen the strong pollution of the sea water is causing a sharp decrease of the fish species, which migrate towards cleaner water.
In Messina, marine biologists have been working for years to protect the sea of the Strait. Their studies, mainly focused on edible fish, reveal that 37% of fish is contaminated with plastic. The microplastic is ingested by the fish, without being absorbed by the tissues. The situation of nanoplastics is different. Their dimensions are so small that the researches can imagine that they can cross biological membranes, accumulating in the internal organs. Understanding whether these particles really cross biological membranes is a problem of fundamental importance for evaluating possible risks for marine organisms and, going up the food chain, for human health. The studies about nanoplastics have just begun and, although at the moment it is difficult to foresee the possible complications, what is sure is that the pollution produced by humans is already altering the entire marine ecosystem.
“Dove si fermano gli occhi – Where the gaze falls” is a work whose main subject is the sea, where the real problem hides from our eyes. It is precisely between the waters of the sea that the uncertainty of the future is weaving one of the most insidious plots. If we don’t want to drown in plastic in the future, we should precisely begin from learning to respect the sea.
“Now that the damage is done, the situation of the sea cannot easily be resolved, but surely improved. How? For exemple by blocking all the production of what can create pollution. Honestly it is quite sad to note the self-destructive power of man “. The quote is by Serena, a PhD student in Marine Biology from the University of Messina.
2020 | Italian Sustainability Photo Award – Finalist
2020 | Siena International Photo Awards – Finalist
2020 | World Water Day Photo Contest – Finalist Project
2020 | World Water Day Photo Contest – Shortlist Single Shot
2020 | International Photo Awards – Honorable mention project
2020 | Moscow International Foto Awards – Honorable Mention project in “Science-Environment” category
2019 | 6×6 World Press Photo Global Talent Program – Nominee
2019 | ITALY PHOTO AWARD/Premio Voglino|Lodi – First place Young Talent
2019 | Budapest International Foto Awards – Gold Medal project in “Science-environment” category
2019 | Tokyo International Foto Awards – Honorable Mention project in “Science-Environment” category
2021 | Sorbonne Nouvelle – Paris, France