The Mediterranean Sea is one of the most polluted seas worldwide, especially with regard to plastics. The presence of this emerging man made contaminant in marine environments precludes large effects and interactions with species exposed to massive litter quantities. In this review, available data of floating and seafloor litter around Mediterranean sub-basins are reported. A review of scientific literature on the interaction of plastic with marine biota resulted in the identification of 134 species, several taxa and feeding strategies affected from 1986 to 2014. Data from 17,334 individuals showed different levels of ingestion and effects on catalogued IUCN species (marine mammals and sea turtles) in addition to several pelagic fish and elasmobranchs. Biodiversity is certainly under threat, and knowledge of the extent of taxa affected is of concern considering the increasing plastic loads in the Mediterranean Sea and worldwide.
Pollution and Marine Debris
Microplastic particles (MP) contaminate oceans and affect marine organisms in several ways. Ingestion combined with food intake is generally reported. However, data interpretation often is circumvented by the difficulty to separate MP from bulk samples. Visual examination often is used as one or the only step to sort these particles. However, color, size, and shape are insufficient and often unreliable criteria. We present an extraction method based on hypochlorite digestion and isolation of MP from the membrane by sonication. The protocol is especially well adapted to a subsequent analysis by Raman spectroscopy. The method avoids fluorescence problems, allowing better identification of anthropogenic particles (AP) from stomach contents of fish by Raman spectroscopy. It was developed with commercial samples of microplastics and cotton along with stomach contents from three different Clupeiformes fishes: Clupea harengus, Sardina pilchardus, and Engraulis encrasicolus. The optimized digestion and isolation protocol showed no visible impact on microplastics and cotton particles while the Raman spectroscopic spectrum allowed the precise identification of microplastics and textile fibers. Thirty-five particles were isolated from nine fish stomach contents. Raman analysis has confirmed 11 microplastics and 13 fibers mainly made of cellulose or lignin. Some particles were not completely identified but contained artificial dyes. The novel approach developed in this manuscript should help to assess the presence, quantity, and composition of AP in planktivorous fish stomachs.
Increasing clarity about plastic-waste leakage volumes and the waste’s effects on the ecosystem, as well as new information about solution economics and action levers—together with emerging private-sector, government, and multilateral support—makes this a good time to elevate the agenda for reducing leakage from the global plastic value chain.
This study outlines a path that can generate considerable benefits to communities, preserve the bioproductivity of the ocean, and reduce risks for industry. It shows that, over the next ten years, concerted action in the form of a $5 billion annual ramp-up in waste-management spending could create a vibrant secondary resource market, trigger investment in packaging and recovery systems, and let the ocean thrive. The drivers of the ocean plastic-reduction agenda should convene and jointly define the architecture of such a global program, the actors who should be involved, and the funds required to drive a flagship initiative that stands for a new, collaborative, and effective way of addressing this global challenge.
Benzophenone-3 (BP-3; oxybenzone) is an ingredient in sunscreen lotions and personal-care products that protects against the damaging effects of ultraviolet light. Oxybenzone is an emerging contaminant of concern in marine environments—produced by swimmers and municipal, residential, and boat/ship wastewater discharges. We examined the effects of oxybenzone on the larval form (planula) of the coral Stylophora pistillata, as well as its toxicity in vitro to coral cells from this and six other coral species. Oxybenzone is a photo-toxicant; adverse effects are exacerbated in the light. Whether in darkness or light, oxybenzone transformed planulae from a motile state to a deformed, sessile condition. Planulae exhibited an increasing rate of coral bleaching in response to increasing concentrations of oxybenzone. Oxybenzone is a genotoxicant to corals, exhibiting a positive relationship between DNA-AP lesions and increasing oxybenzone concentrations. Oxybenzone is a skeletal endocrine disruptor; it induced ossification of the planula, encasing the entire planula in its own skeleton. The LC50 of planulae exposed to oxybenzone in the light for an 8- and 24-h exposure was 3.1 mg/L and 139 µg/L, respectively. The LC50s for oxybenzone in darkness for the same time points were 16.8 mg/L and 779 µg/L. Deformity EC20 levels (24 h) of planulae exposed to oxybenzone were 6.5 µg/L in the light and 10 µg/L in darkness. Coral cell LC50s (4 h, in the light) for 7 different coral species ranges from 8 to 340 µg/L, whereas LC20s (4 h, in the light) for the same species ranges from 0.062 to 8 µg/L. Coral reef contamination of oxybenzone in the U.S. Virgin Islands ranged from 75 µg/L to 1.4 mg/L, whereas Hawaiian sites were contaminated between 0.8 and 19.2 µg/L. Oxybenzone poses a hazard to coral reef conservation and threatens the resiliency of coral reefs to climate change.
Plastic debris is now ubiquitous in the marine environment affecting a wide range of taxa, from microscopic zooplankton to large vertebrates. Its persistence and dispersal throughout marine ecosystems has meant that sensitivity toward the scale of threat is growing, particularly for species of conservation concern, such as marine turtles. Their use of a variety of habitats, migratory behaviour, and complex life histories leave them subject to a host of anthropogenic stressors, including exposure to marine plastic pollution. Here, we review the evidence for the effects of plastic debris on turtles and their habitats, highlight knowledge gaps, and make recommendations for future research. We found that, of the seven species, all are known to ingest or become entangled in marine debris. Ingestion can cause intestinal blockage and internal injury, dietary dilution, malnutrition, and increased buoyancy which in turn can result in poor health, reduced growth rates and reproductive output, or death. Entanglement in plastic debris (including ghost fishing gear) is known to cause lacerations, increased drag—which reduces the ability to forage effectively or escape threats—and may lead to drowning or death by starvation. In addition, plastic pollution may impact key turtle habitats. In particular, its presence on nesting beaches may alter nest properties by affecting temperature and sediment permeability. This could influence hatchling sex ratios and reproductive success, resulting in population level implications. Additionally, beach litter may entangle nesting females or emerging hatchlings. Lastly, as an omnipresent and widespread pollutant, plastic debris may cause wider ecosystem effects which result in loss of productivity and implications for trophic interactions. By compiling and presenting this evidence, we demonstrate that urgent action is required to better understand this issue and its effects on marine turtles, so that appropriate and effective mitigation policies can be developed.
In the 1960s, the Baltic Sea was severely polluted by organic contaminants such as PCBs, HCHs, HCB, and DDTs. Elevated concentrations caused severe adverse effects in Baltic biota. Since then, these substances have been monitored temporally and spatially in Baltic biota, primarily in herring (Clupea harengus) and in guillemot (Uria aalge) egg, but also in cod (Gadus morhua), perch (Perca fluviatilis), eelpout (Zoarces viviparous), and blue mussel (Mytilus edulis). These chemicals were banned in Sweden in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Since the start of monitoring, overall significant decreases of about 70–90 % have been observed. However, concentrations are still higher in the Baltic Sea than in, for example, the North Sea. CB-118 and DDE exceed the suggested target concentrations (24 µg kg−1 lipid weight and 5 µg kg−1 wet weight, respectively) at certain sites in some of the monitored species, showing that concentrations may still be too high to protect the most sensitive organisms.
There is an exponentially increasing amount of human-associated litter in our oceans. This marine litter results in a wide range of potential impacts on the environment. These range from the introduction of adsorbed polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) into food webs to the entanglement and subsequent mortality of threatened seabirds, fish, turtles and mammals in anthropogenic litter and derelict fishing gear. While there has been a major effort afoot to publicize these issues, there remains a paucity of data and scientific research to underpin solutions to the problems. To address knowledge gaps and to identify potential solutions, we assembled thirteen experts from around the world who are leaders in the field. Speakers present current research in three major areas: 1) integrated ecological and oceanographic models to that measure risk to wildlife and predict impact, 2) literature reviews and field studies that measure both the scope and intensity of the threat across species, and 3) analysis of wildlife indicators as regulatory standards for plastic concentration in the environment.
The ubiquity of anthropogenic debris in hundreds of species of wildlife and the toxicity of chemicals associated with it has begun to raise concerns regarding the presence of anthropogenic debris in seafood. We assessed the presence of anthropogenic debris in fishes and shellfish on sale for human consumption. We sampled from markets in Makassar, Indonesia, and from California, USA. All fish and shellfish were identified to species where possible. Anthropogenic debris was extracted from the digestive tracts of fish and whole shellfish using a 10% KOH solution and quantified under a dissecting microscope. In Indonesia, anthropogenic debris was found in 28% of individual fish and in 55% of all species. Similarly, in the USA, anthropogenic debris was found in 25% of individual fish and in 67% of all species. Anthropogenic debris was also found in 33% of individual shellfish sampled. All of the anthropogenic debris recovered from fish in Indonesia was plastic, whereas anthropogenic debris recovered from fish in the USA was primarily fibers. Variations in debris types likely reflect different sources and waste management strategies between countries. We report some of the first findings of plastic debris in fishes directly sold for human consumption raising concerns regarding human health.
Marine protected areas worldwide limit harvest to protect sensitive fisheries, but rarely do they address water quality goals that may have equally demonstrable impacts. California has over 500 coastal shoreline miles of marine protected areas designated as Areas of Special Biological Significance (ASBS), but receives untreated wet weather runoff discharges from over 1600 storm drain outfalls. The goal of this study was to assess the extent and magnitude of water quality impacts in ASBS following storm events. A stratified probabilistic design was used for sampling receiving water shorelines near (discharge) and far (non-discharge) from storm drain outfalls. In general, reasonably good water quality exists in California's ASBS following storm events. Many of the target analytes measured did not exceed water quality standards. The post-storm concentrations of most constituents in discharge and non-discharge strata of ASBS were similar. The three potentially problematic parameters identified were total PAH, chromium, and copper.
The production of biodegradable plastic is increasing. Given the augmented littering of these products an increasing input into the sea is expected. Previous laboratory experiments have shown that degradation of plastic starts within days to weeks. Little is known about the early composition and activity of biofilms found on biodegradable and conventional plastic debris and its correlation to degradation in the marine environment. In this study we investigated the early formation of biofilms on plastic shopper bags and its consequences for the degradation of plastic. Samples of polyethylene and biodegradable plastic were tested in the Mediterranean Sea for 15 and 33 days. The samples were distributed equally to a shallow benthic (sedimentary seafloor at 6 m water depth) and a pelagic habitat (3 m water depth) to compare the impact of these different environments on fouling and degradation. The amount of biofilm increased on both plastic types and in both habitats. The diatom abundance and diversity differed significantly between the habitats and the plastic types. Diatoms were more abundant on samples from the pelagic zone. We anticipate that specific surface properties of the polymer types induced different biofilm communities on both plastic types. Additionally, different environmental conditions between the benthic and pelagic experimental site such as light intensity and shear forces may have influenced unequal colonisation between these habitats. The oxygen production rate was negative for all samples, indicating that the initial biofilm on marine plastic litter consumes oxygen, regardless of the plastic type or if exposed in the pelagic or the benthic zone. Mechanical tests did not reveal degradation within one month of exposure. However, scanning electron microscopy (SEM) analysis displayed potential signs of degradation on the plastic surface, which differed between both plastic types. This study indicates that the early biofilm formation and composition are affected by the plastic type and habitat. Further, it reveals that already within two weeks biodegradable plastic shows signs of degradation in the benthic and pelagic habitat.