Current policy and management for marine water quality in the Great Barrier Reef (GBR) in north-eastern Australia primarily focusses on sediment, nutrients and pesticides derived from diffuse source pollution related to agricultural land uses. In addition, contaminants of emerging concern (CECs) are known to be present in the marine environments of the GBR and the adjacent Torres Strait (TS). Current and projected agricultural, urban and industrial developments are likely to increase the sources and diversity of CECs being released into these marine ecosystems. In this review, we evaluate the sources, presence and potential effects of six different categories of CECs known to be present, or likely to be present, in the GBR and TS marine ecosystems. Specifically, we summarize available monitoring, source and effect information for antifouling paints; coal dust and particles; heavy/trace metals and metalloids; marine debris and microplastics; pharmaceuticals and personal care products (PPCPs); and petroleum hydrocarbons. Our study highlights the lack of (available) monitoring data for most of these CECs, and recommends: (i) the inclusion of all relevant environmental data into integrated databases for building marine baselines for the GBR and TS regions, and (ii) the implementation of local, targeted monitoring programs informed by predictive methods for risk prioritization. Further, our spatial representation of the known and likely sources of these CECs will contribute to future ecological risk assessments of CECs to the GBR and TS marine environments, including risks relative to those identified for sediment, nutrients and pesticides.
Pollution and Marine Debris
A new method consisting of enrichment factor (EF) determination, nonmetric multidimensional scaling (NMS), and the geographic information system (GIS) technique was firstly developed to identify anthropogenic heavy metal sources in marine sediments of Hong Kong. Firstly, the EF was determined to differentiate between heavy metals originating from human and natural sources. Subsequently, NMS was applied to identify various source patterns of heavy metals, and the NMS score was calculated and spatially interpolated using GIS technology to evaluate the spatial influences of anthropogenic impacts in different areas. The concentrations of heavy metals in sediments of Hong Kong substantially exceeded their background values, demonstrating anthropogenic pollution. Two different types of human sources could be identified via NMS, one representing the industrial pollution discharges in the period from the 1960s to the 1980s before pollution control was introduced and one representing sewage discharge before the Tolo Harbour Action Plan in the mid-1980s.
This study examined the carriage of antibiotic resistance in bacteria isolated from Food-related Marine Macroplastic Litter (FRMMPL) around the coastline of Northern Ireland. FRMMPL was collected from 18 coastal sites during November/December 2018 and the bacteria from the surface of the plastic examined for their susceptibility to 10 common human antibiotics. Ten bacterial genera and 13 species were identified from the plastic materials. Bacteria isolated from plastic material were most resistant to the beta-lactam antibiotics (ampicillin, ceftazidime and cefpodoxime) (98.1% resistant) and least resistant to the tetracycline group, minocycline (16.1% resistant). This study is significant as it highlights a new potential route of dispersal of such antibiotic-resistance in the environment, which may act as carriers of such bacteria by introducing them into new marine ecosystems, as well as potential pathways having impacts on animal and human health, until their final interaction with the human foodchain.
The accumulation patterns of floating marine litter (FML) in the Black Sea and the stranding locations on coasts are studied by performing dedicated Lagrangian simulations using freely available ocean current and Stokes drift data from operational models. The low FML concentrations in the eastern and northern areas and the high concentrations along the western and southern coasts are due to the dominant northerlies and resulting Ekman and Stokes drift. No pronounced FML accumulation zones resembling the Great Pacific Garbage Patch are observed at time scales from months to a year. The ratio of circulation intensity (measured by the sea level slope) to the rate of the temporal variability of sea level determines whether FML will compact. This ratio is low in the Black Sea, which is prohibitive for FML accumulation. It is demonstrated that the strong temporal variability of the velocity field (ageostrophic motion) acts as a mixing mechanism that opposes another ageostrophic constituent of the velocity field (spatial variability in sea level slope, or frontogenesis), the latter promoting the accumulation of particles. The conclusion is that not all ageostrophic ocean processes lead to clustering. The short characteristic stranding time of ∼20 days in this small and almost enclosed basin explains the large variability in the total amount of FML and the low FML concentration in the open ocean. The predominant stranding areas are determined by the cyclonic general circulation. The simulated distribution of stranded objects is supported by available coastal and near-coastal observations. It is shown that the areas that were the most at risk extend from the Kerch Strait to the western coast.
An assessment of quantity, composition and seasonal variation of fishing-related plastic debris was conducted in six beaches along the Kerala coast of India during 2017–2018. Plastic items were the most dominant type of waste constituting 73.8% by number and 59.9% by weight. In the total debris recorded, 5540 pieces (36%) weighing 198.4 kg (39.8%) were fishing related trash. On an average 14.4 ± 12 fishing related items/100 m2, corresponding to mean weight of 0.55 ± 0.7 kg/100 m2 was recorded from these beaches. Results indicated that the fishing-related plastic items were concentrated four times more in the beaches with higher fishing intensity, as compared to the other beaches. Also, the concentration of fishing-related plastic was recorded higher in the post-monsoon season compared to the lowest during monsoon, which was significant with p-value < 0.05. The results emphasize the role of fishing activities in the generation of marine litter.
Microplastics (MPs, particles <5 mm) represent an emerging global environmental concern, having been detected in multiple aquatic species. However, very little is known about the presence of MPs in higher trophic level species, including cetaceans. We worked with community based monitors and Inuvialuit hunters from Tuktoyaktuk (Northwest Territories, Canada) to sample seven beluga whales (Delphinapterus leucas) in 2017 and 2018. Microplastics were detected in the gastrointestinal tracts in every whale. We estimate that each whale contained 18 to 147 MPs in their GI tract (average of 97 ± 42 per individual). FTIR-spectroscopy revealed over eight plastic polymer types, with nearly half being polyester. Fibres made up 49% of MPs. The diversity of MP shapes and polymeric identities in beluga points to a complex source scenario, and ultimately raises questions regarding the significance and long-term exposure of this pollutant in this ecologically and culturally valuable species.
Microplastics (MP) pollution has received increased attention over the last few years. However, while the number of studies documentating the ingestion of microplastics by fish has increased, fewer studies have addressed the toxicological effects derived from the ingestion of these small items in wild conditions. Here, MP contamination and effect biomarkers were investigated in three commercially important fish species from North East Atlantic Ocean. From the 150 analysed fish (50 per species), 49 % had MP. In fish from the 3 species, MP in the gastrointestinal tract, gills and dorsal muscle were found. Fish with MP had significantly (p ≤ 0.05) higher lipid peroxidation levels in the brain, gills and dorsal muscle, and increased brain acetylcholinesterase activity than fish where no MP were found. These results suggest lipid oxidative damage in gills and muscle, and neurotoxicity through lipid oxidative damage and acetylcholinesterase induction in relation to MP and/or MP-associated chemicals exposure. From the 150 fish analysed, 32 % had MP in dorsal muscle, with a total mean (± SD) of 0.054 ± 0.099 MP items/g. Based on this mean and on EFSA recommendation for fish consumption by adults or the general population, human consumers of Dicentrachus labrax, Trachurus trachurus, Scomber colias may intake 842 MP items/year from fish consumption only. Based on the mean of MP in fish muscle and data (EUMOFA, NOAA) of fish consumption per capita in selected European and American countries, the estimated intake of microplastics through fish consumption ranged from 518 to 3078 MP items/year/capita. Considering that fish consumption is only one of the routes of human exposure to microplastics, this study and others in the literature emphasize the need for more research, risk assessment and adoption of measures to minimize human exposure to these particles. Thus, microplastics pollution and its effects should be further investigated and addressed according to the WHO ‘One Health’ approach.
Significant quantities of plastic debris pollute nearly all the world’s ecosystems, where it persists for decades and poses a considerable threat to flora and fauna. Much of the focus has been on the marine environment, with little information on the hazard posed by debris accumulating on beaches and adjacent vegetated areas. Here we investigate the potential for beach debris to disrupt terrestrial species and ecosystems on two remote islands. The significant quantities of debris on the beaches, and throughout the coastal vegetation, create a significant barrier which strawberry hermit crabs (Coenobita perlatus) encounter during their daily activities. Around 61,000 (2.447 crabs/m2) and 508,000 crabs (1.117 crabs/m2) are estimated to become entrapped in debris and die each year on Henderson Island and the Cocos (Keeling) Islands, respectively. Globally, there is an urgent need to establish a clear link between debris interactions and population persistence, as loss of biodiversity contributes to ecosystem degradation. Our findings show accumulating debris on these islands has the potential to seriously impact hermit crab populations. This is important for countless other islands worldwide where crabs and debris overlap, as crabs play a crucial role in the maintenance of tropical ecosystems.
Using simple models, coupled with parameters extracted from published studies, the annual inputs of macro and micro plastics to the Scottish Atlantic Coast and the Scottish North Sea Coast regions are estimated. Two estimates of land-based sources are used, scaled by catchment area population size. The oceanic supply of floating plastic is estimated for wind-driven and general circulation sources. Minimum, typical and maximum values are computed to examine the magnitude of uncertainties. Direct inputs from fishing and the flux of macroplastic onto the seabed are also included. The modelled estimates reveal the importance of local litter sources to Scottish coastal regions, and hence local management actions can be effective. Estimates provide a scale against which removal efforts may be compared, and provide input data for future more complex modelling. Recommendations for research to improve the preliminary estimates are provided. Methods presented here may be useful elsewhere.
Commercial fisheries yield essential foods, sustain cultural practices, and provide widespread employment around the globe. Commercially harvested species face a myriad of anthropogenic threats including degraded habitats, changing climate, overharvest, and pollution. Microplastics are pollutants of increasing concern, which are pervasive in the environment and can harbor or adsorb pollutants from surrounding waters. Aquatic organisms, including commercial species, encounter and ingest microplastics, but there is a paucity of data about those caught and cultured in North America. Additional research is needed to determine prevalence, physiological effects, and population‐level implications of microplastics in commercial species from Canada, the United States, and Mexico. Investigations into possible human health effects of microplastic exposure from seafood are also greatly needed. This synthesis summarizes current knowledge, identifies data gaps, and provides future research directions for addressing microplastics effects in commercially valuable North American fishery species.