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Marine litter

Sea change for plastic pollution

Scientists, policymakers and the public can learn from LITTERBASE, a newly launched online database of information from 1,300 peer-reviewed publications that provides analysis and visualization of human-generated marine litter worldwide (http://litterbase.org).This comprehensive resource will help to coordinate international action against a lethal form of aquatic pollution.

LITTERBASE shows that almost all of the world's oceans contain litter (represented by yellow dots, pictured; compiled from data in more than 600 peer-reviewed publications). This pollution is crippling and depleting more than 1,300 species through entanglement and ingestion. On a global scale, non-degradable plastic accounts for 73% of litter in any aquatic habitat. Joint international management action is urgently needed to clean up this waste and to force countries to stop their excessive use and dumping of plastics.

Large stretches of ocean are as yet uncharted with respect to the distribution of marine litter. Still relatively unexplored are the deep ocean floor, the polar regions and the major oceanic frontal systems that shape this pollution. LITTERBASE offers a freely accessible tool for tackling these as well.

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Correspondence to Melanie Bergmann.

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Bergmann, M., Tekman, M. & Gutow, L. Sea change for plastic pollution. Nature 544, 297 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1038/544297a

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