Ingestion of microplastics by fish and other prey organisms of cetaceans, exemplified for two large baleen whale species
Knowledge on microplastic (MP) ingestion by cetaceans is difficult to obtain. We infer the potential for MP uptake by cetaceans from the occurrence of MP in prey species. First, we reviewed information on whale prey species, focussing on common minke (Balaenoptera acutorostrata) and sei whale (B. borealis), for which the most comprehensive quantitative datasets exist. Second, evidence of MP ingestion by their prey species was reviewed. We found common minke whales forageopportunistically on fish from various families: Ammodytidae, Clupeidae, Gadidae, Engraulidae and Osmeridae. Sei whales mostly feed on copepods, Engraulidae, Clupeidae and Scombridae. High levels of MP contamination are reported for Scombridae in the Atlantic and Engraulidae in the Northwest Pacific Ocean. Copepods exhibit low levels of MP ingestion in the Northeast Pacific Ocean. Species-specific prey preferences and feeding strategies imply different cetaceans have varied potential for MP uptake, even if they feed in similar geographic areas.