plastic pellets in red, blue, green

The National Maritime Authority (AMN) has activated the Mar Limpo plan due to the tiny plastic particles that have washed ashore in Spain and has removed around 400 ‘pellets’ from several beaches between Caminha and Aveiro, an official source said.

Speaking to Lusa, the AMN spokesman noted that “very small quantities” were involved, and it is not known if there is any relation to those found in larger quantities on the beaches of the northern Spanish coast, after a thousand bags containing 26.2 tons fell into the sea off Viana do Castelo on December 8.

José Sousa Luís added that, on Wednesday, level 2 (with regional coordination from the Northern Maritime Department) of the contingency plan was activated to deal with the possible arrival of this material in Portugal, and daily patrols are underway, with teams “on standby” from both the AMN and the municipalities.

“The AMN can’t confirm that the pellets we’re collecting are the same ones that are washed up on the shore in Galicia,” he noted.

Since Monday, he said, “patrols have been stepped up along the coastline in the areas of jurisdiction of the captaincies of the ports of Caminha and Viana do Castelo, in order to find any ‘pellets'”.

“Maritime patrols are also being carried out, using a vessel from the Viana do Castelo Life Saving Station, in order to monitor and identify any ‘pellets’ in the ocean,” he said.

By the end of this morning, “165 pellets had been removed along the entire length of the beach from Forte do Cão to Vila Praia de Âncora, in the area of jurisdiction of the Caminha captaincy”.

In the area of jurisdiction of the Viana do Castelo captaincy, “around 182 plastic pellets were collected on the beaches of Afife, Paçô, Carreço, Cabedelo and Amorosa”.

“Plastic grains were also detected by members of the Póvoa do Varzim Maritime Police Local Command, on the beaches of Estela, Aguçadoura and Quião, as well as a small quantity by a local man, between Madalena and Valadares beaches, in the municipality of Vila Nova de Gaia, in the area of jurisdiction of the Douro Captaincy,” describes the AMN.

Around 50 ‘pellets’ were also removed in the area of jurisdiction of the Aveiro Captaincy, and no presence of the material was detected in the area of jurisdiction of the Figueira da Foz Captaincy”.

The Portuguese Navy’s Hydrographic Institute is “constantly calculating the drift of the ‘pellets’ and so far there is no likelihood of large quantities of the material appearing on the Portuguese coast,” adds the AMN.

The northern regions of Spain, from Galicia to the Basque Country, activated or raised environmental alerts on Tuesday due to these particles.

On Thursday, “around 300 people” were on Galician beaches collecting the plastic, according to data from the Xunta de Galicia’s Conselleria do Ambiente, which predicts that more plastic will arrive on Saturday due to the change in “maritime conditions”.

The small particles are used in the production of plastic and fell overboard in bags at the beginning of December in Portuguese waters, 80 kilometers from Viana do Castelo, according to information provided to the Spanish government by the boat’s owner.

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