A European assessment of plastic ingestion in the Norway lobster (Nephrops norvegicus)

, Carrassón Maite, Carreras-Colom Ester, Cartes Joan E., Rodríguez-Romeu Oriol, Constenla María, Welden Natalie, Soler-Membrives Anna.

Several species among the marine organisms have been proposed as potential monitors of plastic pollution in the environment. Of these, Nephrops norvegicus, an abundant commercial species with a wide geographical distribution (from the NW Atlantic Coast to the E Mediterranean Sea) and for which varying levels of ingested plastics have already been reported at different sites (Murray and Cowie, 2011; Cau et al., 2019), seems of particular interest. In this study, we provide new data on plastic ingestion in N. norvegicus from several locations. Individuals were collected from the Clyde Sea, off Galicia, the Balearic Sea and the Gulf of Cadiz at depths ranging between 50 and 600 m. Stomach contents were screened for the presence of plastic items, which were characterized by means of light microscopy and a subsample analysed through FTIR for polymer identification. Plastics occurred in ¿75% of the individuals, commonly accumulating in the form of balls of tangled fibres (up to 36% of the individuals from the Clyde Sea) with the exception of the off Galicia area, where none of the individuals presented a ball. Almost all items identified were fibres of lengths ranging between 0.2 and 44.6 mm (films and fragments represented less than 1%) and a mean abundance of 7.5 items per individual overall. Despite showing a similar composition of polymers, significant differences in the mean fibre load and size range were observed between locations and even between different samplings performed at the same location. Since the diet composition of most of these populations, in general, has been considered similar (Cristo and Cartes, 1998) differences in the levels of ingested plastics could be mainly related to differences in the bioavailability of plastics in the environment. Overall, this study gives support to the potential use of N. norvegicus as a European monitor of plastic pollution.

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