Microplastic litter composition of the Turkish territorial waters of the Mediterranean Sea, and its occurrence in the gastrointestinal tract of fish
Microplastic pollution of marine environment is receiving increased publicity over the last few years. The present survey is, according to our knowledge, the survey with the largest sample size analyzed, to date. In total, 1337 specimens of fish were examined for the presence of plastic microlitter representing 28 species and 14 families. In addition, samples of seawater and sediment were also analyzed for the quantification of microplastic in the same region. Samples of water/sediment were collected from 18 locations along the Mediterranean coast of Turkey. 94% of all collected plastic microlitter from the sea was in the size range between 0.1 and 2.5 mm, while the occurrence of other sizes was rare. The quantity of microplastic particles in surface water samples ranged from 16 339 to 520 213 per km2. Fish were collected from 10 locations from which 8 were either shared with or situated in the proximity of water/sediment sampling locations. A total of 1822 microplastic particles were extracted from stomach and intestines of fish. Majority of ingested particles were represented by fibers (70%) and hard plastic (20.8%), while the share of other groups: nylon (2.7%), rubber (0.8%) and miscellaneous plastic (5.5%) were low. The blue color of plastic was the most dominant color. 34% of all examined fish had microplastic in the stomach. On average, fish which had microplastic contained 1.80 particles per stomach. 41% of all fish had microplastic in the intestines with an average of 1.81 particles per fish. 771 specimens contained microplastic in either stomach and/or intestines representing 58% of the total sample with an average of 2.36 particles per fish. Microplastic was found in all species/families that had sample size of at least 2 individuals. The number of particles present in either stomach or intestines ranged between 1 and 35. Ingested microplastic had an average diameter ±SD of 656 ± 803 μm, however particles as small as 9 μm were detected. The trophic level of fish species had no influence whatsoever on the amount of ingested microplastic. Pelagic fish ingested more microplastic than demersal species. In general, fish that ingested higher number of microplastic particles originated from the sites that also had a higher particle count in the seawater and sediment.