Pump-underway ship intake: An unexploited opportunity for Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD) microplastic monitoring needs on coastal and oceanic waters
Broad scale sampling methods for microplastic monitoring in the open ocean waters remain a challenge in oceanography. A large number of samples is required to understand the distribution, abundance and fate of microplastic particles in the environment. Despite more than a decade of widespread study, there is currently no established time series of microplastic measurements and the research community is yet to establish a standardised set of methods that will allow data to be collected in a quick, affordable and interoperable way. We present a sampling technique involving the connection of a custom-built microplastic sampling device to the pump-underway ship intake system of a research vessel (RV) as an unexploited opportunity for oceanic monitoring needs concerning microplastic abundance and distribution. The method is cost effective, highly versatile and accurate, and is able to sample particles down to 50μm from opportunity platforms, thus contributing to an emerging area of study, and in particular helping to increase the monitoring reporting of data, and thereby serving as a valuable aid for the implementation of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD). Sampling was performed during three consecutive oceanographic cruises in the subtropical NE Atlantic over a year, sampling subsurface waters (4 m depth) during navigation and while on coastal and oceanic stations. Microplastic particles were found in all stations and transects sampled. Fibres (64.42%) were predominant over fragments (35.58%), with the concentration values falling within the ranges of data reported for other areas of the Atlantic.