Our team of marine scientists is currently collecting samples around Malta for Project Impact, a collaborative research project with @MCAST Institute of Applied Sciences, Zibel, and AquaBioTech Group to identify Microplastic Hotspots in the Maltese Waters
To cover the entire heterogeneity of the Maltese waters in terms of potential microplastic content, and to be able to identify microplastic hotspots, Maltese waters are divided into different sampling areas. Within these areas, sampling transects are defined. The transects includes areas minimally exposed to anthropogenic activities as well as highly impacted areas such as harbours.
To collect sample, a manta trawl is being used to sample microplastics in the sea surface water. The manta trawl consists of a plankton net with 300 µm mesh size, a metal frame, together with floating aids and a flow meter. The trawl is towed behind a research vessel for a fixed stipulated time at each site, with tow speeds below 3 knots, while the vessel will maintain a consistent heading on a predefined transect line. The exact path of the vessel is recorded using a handheld GPS. Microplastic samples captured in the cod end of the net are placed in a clean sample jar . A number of physical parameters at each sampling transect such as temperature, pH, salinity, oxygen saturation and conductivity are recorded. Once collected, samples are being kept in a dark and cold environment until further laboratory analysis.
The methodology of processing microplastic samples is developed in accordance with the EU Common Implementation Strategy for the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (EC, 2013) and UNEP Guidelines for the Monitoring and Assessment of Plastic Litter in the Ocean.