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Socio-economic impact of microplastics in the 2 Seas, Channel and France Manche Region

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The accumulation of microplastics (MPs), plastic particles with a diameter smaller than 5 mm, in marine environments has raised health and safety concerns. Because of their small size, MPs are potentially bioavailable to a wide range of marine organisms. Microplastics can be ingested by low trophic suspension, filter and deposit feeders, detritivores and planktivores (Browne, 2008; Graham and Thompson, 2009; Murray and Cowie, 2011; Setälä et al., 2014;
Thompson et al., 2004). Because of this, MPs can be transferred through the food web via planktonic organisms from one trophic level to the next (Setälä et al., 2014). Lusher et al. (2013), for example, found microplastics in 36.5% of fish belonging to 10 species sampled from the English Channel, irrespective of habitat (pelagic vs. demersal).

Microplastics can affect the feeding, movement, growth and breeding success of marine organisms. Recently, Wright et al. (2013) reviewed the consequences for the health and susceptibility of marine invertebrates to the physical impacts of microplastic uptake, including the concentrations found in the environment. These small particles do not only have an impact because of their physical effects and if translocated into tissues, particle toxicity, but also contain chemical substances that could be taken up by marine organisms affecting their health and functioning.

There is increasing evidence that MPs may be transferred through the food chain from prey to predator and may eventually lead to bioaccumulation of MPs or associated toxic substances. However, there is currently only limited evidence of transfer of chemicals from ingested plastics into tissues (Tanaka et al., 2013). Effects on the marine food-chain can by extension pose potential risks to human health through the consumption of seafood, and may lead to socio-economic costs.

‘MICRO: Is it a threat for the 2 Seas Area?’ is a project in which five scientific institutes study the occurrence and impact of microplastics in the Interreg 2 Seas area and the Franche Manche Channel region( Figure 1.1). It is a cooperation between the Belgian Institute for Agricultural and Fisheries research (EV-ILVO), the Centre for Environment, Fisheries and Aquaculture science (Cefas) in England, the Dutch Stichting Deltares and two French partners: l’Institut Français de Recherche pour l’ Exploitation de la Mer (IFREMER) and the Centre National de la Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

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ILVO  Ifremer  Centre national de la recherche scientifique (CNRS)  Cefas  Deltares, Enabling Delta Life  Provincie West-Vlaanderen, door mensen gedreven  Ministerie  Interreg IV A, 'Investing in your future' Crossborder cooperation programme 2007-2013 Part-financed by the European Union (European Regional Development Fund)