Microplastic pollution is apparent throughout the marine environment from deep ocean sediments to coastal habitats. Most of this is believed to originate on land, although marine activities, such as fishing and shipping, also contribute to the release and redistribution of microplastic. The relative importance of these maritime plastic sources, the manner by which they are distributed in the environment, and their effect on uptake by marine organisms are yet to be fully quantified. In this study, the relative impact of fishing activities on microplastic uptake by demersal fish and crustaceans was explored. Local fishing intensity, proximity to land and mean water velocity are compared to microplastic uptake in plaice, Pleuronectes platessa, and spider crab, Maja squinado, from the Celtic Sea. Observations were also made of microplastic contamination in ingested sand eels, Ammodytes tobianus, to establish a potential route of trophic transfer. This study is the first to identify microplastic contamination in spider crab and to document trophic transfer in the wild. Individuals were sampled from sites of varied fishing intensity in the Celtic Sea, and their stomach contents examined for the presence of microplastic. Contamination was observed in 50% of P. platessa, 42.4% of M. squinado, and 44.4% of A. tobianus. Locations of highest plastic abundance varied between P. platessa and M. squinado, indicating that different factors influence the uptake of microplastic in these two taxa. No significant link was observed between fishing effort and microplastic abundance; however, proximity to land was linked to increased abundance in M. squinado and Observations of whole prey demonstrate ongoing trophic transfer from A. tobianus to P. platessa. The lack of significant difference in microplastic abundance between predator and prey suggests that microplastic is not retained by P. platessa.
N. A. Welden, B. Abylkhani, L. M. Howarth, Environmental Pollution, Volume 239, August 2018, Pages 351–358