Microplastics as a new, ubiquitous pollutant: Strategies to anticipate management and advise seafood consumers
The presence of plastic marine debris in our oceans has emerged rapidly in the last few years as an environmental impact urgently in need of attention, and plastic will be a pollutant of concern for the foreseeable future. Concerns have been raised about possible adverse health impacts as a result of microplastic ingestion by marine wildlife as well as human seafood consumers, yet there is very little data to inform appropriate management actions and consumer advice. Now is the time to consider the best strategic choices for the research, management and outreach needed to address priority issues around microplastics. It is essential to treat marine plastic pollution not only as an area in need of comprehensive research and waste management solutions, but also as a permanent pollutant in order to formulate management responses similar to those for other pollutants. First, it is essential to consider developing monitoring protocols to gather important baseline information about microplastics to inform management responses. Second, targeted research is needed to identify differences in microplastic accumulation among selected species and fisheries. Third, research is needed to explore potential threshold levels of microplastics in seafood that could trigger management actions or consumer advisories. Finally, a range of model management practices to address microplastics should be considered, such as regulating inputs from wastewater, assessing what consumer advisories are needed, and taking into account localized inputs from gear used in seafood harvesting and cultivation.
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