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Assessment of microplastics derived from mariculture in Xiangshan Bay, China

Minglong Chen, Meng Jin, Peiran Tao, Zheng Wang, Weiping Xie, Xubiao Yu, Kan Wang
Environmental Pollution 2018, 242 (Pt B): 1146-1156
Mariculture activities including enclosure, raft and cage cultures employ a variety of plastic gear such as fishing nets, buoyant material and net cages. The plastic gear poses a potential source of microplastics to the coastal environment, but relevant data on the impacts of mariculture are still limited. To this end, a semi-enclosed narrow bay (i.e., Xiangshan Bay, China) with a long-term mariculture history was investigated to assess how mariculture activities affect microplastics in seawater and sediment. The results indicated that mariculture-derived microplastics accounted for approximately 55.7% and 36.8% of the microplastics in seawater and sediment, respectively. The average microplastic abundances of seawater and sediment were 8.9 ± 4.7 (mean ± SD, n = 18) items/m3 seawater and 1739 ± 2153 (n = 18) items/kg sediment, respectively. The types of mariculture-derived microplastics included polyethylene (PE) foam, PE nets, PE film, polypropylene (PP) rope, polystyrene (PS) foam and rubber. PE foam had the highest proportion (38.6%) in the seawater samples. High usage rates and the porous structure of PE foam led to the high abundance. The average microplastic sizes of seawater and sediment are 1.54 ± 1.53 mm and 1.33 ± 1.69 mm, respectively. The spatial variations in the abundance and size of microplastics implied that the mariculture-derived microplastics in Xiangshan Bay were transported along the Bay to the open sea. The results of this study indicate that mariculture activity can be a significant source of microplastics. Further research is required to investigate how the high microplastic abundance in mariculture zone affects marine organisms, especially cultured seafood.


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