Marine litter at the seafloor – Abundance and composition in the North Sea and the Baltic Sea

Litter is present in all marine waters around the globe. It consists of several compound classes of which plastic is of special interest because of its high abundance and possible threat to marine organisms. The regional distribution, composition and abundance of large litter items (LI) at the sea floor of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea were investigated based on 175 bottom trawls between 2013 and 2015. Different types of marine litter > 2.5 cm were classified according to the protocol of the ICES International Bottom Trawl Survey. The results showed considerable geographical variation: In the North Sea, a mean litter abundance of 16.8 LI/km2 was found, whereas the litter abundance in the Baltic Sea was significantly lower (5.07 LI/km2). In general, plastic represented 80% of the litter items. During the study, some methodical aspects with possible impact on the results were identified that need to be addressed in future sampling campaigns.

Ulrike Kammann, Marc-Oliver Aust, Horst Bahl, Thomas Lang, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 12 October 2017, In Press

The article


Marine litter in the Nordic Seas: Distribution composition and abundance

Litter has been found in all marine environments and is accumulating in seabirds and mammals in the Nordic Seas. These ecosystems are under pressure from climatic change and fisheries while the human population is small. The marine landscapes in the area range from shallow fishing banks to deep-sea canyons. We present density, distribution and composition of litter from the first large-scale mapping of sea bed litter in arctic and subarctic waters. Litter was registered from 1778 video transects, of which 27% contained litter. The background density of litter in the Barents Sea and Norwegian Sea is 202 and 279 items/km2 respectively, and highest densities were found close to coast and in canyons. Most of the litter originated from the fishing industry and plastic was the second most common litter. Background levels were comparable to European records and areas with most littering had higher densities than in Europe.

Lene Buhl-Mortensen, Pål Buhl-Mortensen, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Available online 31 August 2017, In Press, Corrected Proof

The article

Detection of low numbers of microplastics in North Sea fish using strict quality assurance criteria

We investigated 400 individual fish of four North Sea species: Atlantic Herring, Sprat, Common Dab, and Whiting on ingestion of > 20 μm microplastic. Strict quality assurance criteria were followed in order to control contamination during the study. Two plastic particles were found in only 1 (a Sprat) out of 400 individuals (0.25%, with a 95% confidence interval of 0.09–1.1%). The particles were identified to consist of polymethylmethacrylate (PMMA) through FTIR spectroscopy. No contamination occurred during the study, showing the method applied to be suitable for microplastic ingestion studies in biota. We discuss the low particle count for North Sea fish with those in other studies and suggest a relation between reported particle count and degree of quality assurance applied. Microplastic ingestion by fish may be less common than thought initially, with low incidence shown in this study, and other studies adhering to strict quality assurance criteria.

Enya Hermsen, Renske Pompe, Ellen Besseling, Albert A. Koelmans, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Vol. 122 (1-2), 15 September 2017

The article

Sea Mer association : OSPAR results – Wimereux, Pas de Calais, France

The association assesses and counts waste for the OSPAR protocol on the two sites of the Boulogne littoral since the beginning of 2016. The results are transmitted to the national coordinator of the OSPAR European Commission which aims to establish the inventory of pollution in the Northeast Atlantic. More information can be found at

L’association réalise des comptages et la caractérisation des déchets conformément au protocole OSPAR sur deux sites du littoral boulonnais depuis début 2016. Les résultats sont transmis au coordinateur national de la commission européenne OSPAR qui vise à établir l’état des lieux de la pollution en Atlantique Nord-Est. Plus d’infos en français sur le site

The article (french) and waste results

Large amounts of marine debris found in sperm whales stranded along the North Sea coast in early 2016

30 sperm whales (Physeter macrocephalus) stranded along the coasts of the North Sea between January and February 2016. The gastro-intestinal tracts of 22 of the carcasses were investigated. Marine debris including netting, ropes, foils, packaging material and a part of a car were found in nine of the 22 individuals. Here we provide details about the findings and consequences for the animals. While none of the items was responsible for the death of the animal, the findings demonstrate the high level of exposure to marine debris and associated risks for large predators, such as the sperm whale.

Bianca Unger, Elisa L. Bravo Rebolledo, Rob Deaville, Andrea Gröne, Lonneke L. IJsseldijk, Mardik F. Leopold, Ursula Siebert, Jérôme Spitz, Peter Wohlsein, Helena Herr, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 112, Issues 1–2, 15 November 2016, Pages 134–141

The article

Microplastic particles in North Sea sediments 2015

Contents and composition of microplastic particles have been analysed in ten sediment samples from the Danish part of the open North Sea in 2015. The contents of microplastic particles in the size range 20-5000 μm were determined to be in the range of 192-675 particles per kg dry weight sediment, dominated by blue and blackcoloured particles, mainly as fibres, and particle sizes < 300 μm were dominating.

Jakob Strand and Zhanna Tairova, Aarhus University, DCE – Danish Centre for Environment and Energy, n° 178, 2016

The report