The accumulation of microplastic pollution in a commercially important fishing ground.

The Irish Sea is an important area for Norway Lobster Nephrops norvegicus fisheries, which are the most valuable fishing resource in the UK. Norway lobster are known to ingest microplastic pollution present in the sediment and have displayed reduced body mass when exposed to microplastic pollution. Here, we identified microplastic pollution in the Irish Sea fishing grounds through analysis of 24 sediment samples from four sites of differing proximity to the Western Irish Sea Gyre in both 2016 and 2019. We used µFTIR spectroscopy to identify seven polymer types, and a total of 77 microplastics consisting of fibres and fragments. The mean microplastics per gram of sediment ranged from 0.13 to 0.49 and 0 to 1.17 MP/g in 2016 and 2019, respectively. There were no differences in the microplastic counts across years, and there was no correlation of microplastic counts with proximity to the Western Irish Sea Gyre. Considering the consistently high microplastic abundance found in the Irish Sea, and the propensity of N. norvegicus to ingest and be negatively impacted by them, we suggest microplastic pollution levels in the Irish Sea may have adverse impacts on N. norvegicus and negative implications for fishery sustainability in the future.
Publication history: Accepted - 3 March 2022; Published online - 10 March 2022
Conservation biology, Environmental impact, Marine biology, Physical oceanography
Cunningham, E.M., Ehlers, S.M., Kiriakoulakis, K., Schuchert, P., Jones, N.H., Kregting, L., Woodall, L.C. and Dick, J.T.A. (2022) ‘The accumulation of microplastic pollution in a commercially important fishing ground’, Scientific Reports. Springer Science and Business Media LLC. doi:10.1038/s41598-022-08203-2.