‘Mermaid’ Swims Up the Thames
to Raise Awareness of Marine Plastic

A woman wearing a mermaid’s tale is swimming 200 miles along the River Thames to raise awareness about the problems caused by single-use plastic. She started her epic journey around 20 miles from the river’s source in Gloucestershire and will finish in Teddington. She is expected to swim for four hours every day, and while she says she has not done as much training as she would like, she hopes that everything goes to plan.

During her swim, she is asking people to litter pick for two minutes along the river banks and add any plastic litter they find to a giant mermaid sculpture that will be towed by her support canoe. She said that by the time she reaches London, the sculpture will represent how the rivers are being choked with plastic.

During November, she’ll also be visiting schools along the way to educate school children about the problem of plastic litter.

mermaid

Why should we be worried about plastic in our waterways?

A ban on single-use plastic has the support of European MEPs who said that if no action is taken, there’ll be more plastic than fish in our oceans. This concern is backed up by a new study which has shown the terrible effects that plastic pollution has on marine life. The study, which was carried out by scientists from the University of London's Royal Holloway, The Natural History Museum and the University of the West of Scotland found that 28% of fish in the Thames Estuary have ingested microplastics as have 39% of fish in the Firth of Clyde Estuary. As well as this, around one third of the 876 fish and shrimp that were examined in total had ingested microplastics.

Microplastics are defined as small pieces of plastic less than 5mm long. The Marine Conservation Society said that microplastics can carry toxins that if ingested by marine animals, could be passed onto us up the food chain.

The study’s researchers say that people have started to take notice of the extent of plastic pollution and their research has shown why it’s a problem that can no longer be ignored. They added that both rivers that were examined as part of the study are diverse ecosystems which are home to hundreds of different species and that seeing so many species being put in danger was shocking.

The researchers say that their study showed that there is a need for more research into freshwater and river ecosystems so we can better understand the effect that microplastic is having on marine life.