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).

Read more in 'Socio-economic impact of microplastics in the 2 Seas, Channel and France Manche Region' (pdf)

The MICRO movie presenting the activities of the project is now available to download here.

Since the rise of the plastic production and it’s frequent use in many aspects of our daily life, the presence of marine litter is a growing concern. Plastic debris degrade into smaller particles, the so-called microplastics, which tend to accumulate in the marine environment, affect marine life and may end up in the food chain. Marine Litter, inclusive microplastics, is mentioned as one of the descriptors of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive for which attention is needed to reach a Good Environmental Status.

For the past two years five scientific institutes from Belgium, England, the Netherlands and France performed a risk assessment to determine the impact of microplastics within the Interreg 2Seas area and the Channel region. Several aspects were studied. Sampling en modelling work to look at the presence of this pollution and the characterization of the polymers, the chemical compounds adsorbed on plastic and the bacteria able to colonize plastic debris were combined with experiments to assess the impact on some sentinel species of the marine environment and on maritime activities.

We kindly invite you to the stakeholder (policymakers, socio-economic actors, scientists) meeting of this project on which the results of the consortium will be presented followed by a discussion on the main issues of the microplastics problem. The meeting will be closed by a reception.


Plouzan√© / France - 13-15/01/2014

Almost all aspects of daily life involve plastics, and consequently the production of plastics has increased substantially the last 60 years. Plastics are persistent materials, which tend to accumulate in the marine environment and affect marine life as they remain there for years.

The microplastic (MP) are generally defined as all plastic particles less than 1 mm and can have several origins / sources. Primary MPs are included in industrial abrasives, exfoliants, cosmetics, and pre-production plastic beads the latter being one of the main components of marine debris. Secondary MPs are products of degradation (mechanical forces and / or photochemical processes) plastic debris. Another important part of the secondary MPs comes from synthetic fibers produced during our laundry.

Those particles also contain additives such as UV-stabilizers, colourings, flame retardants and plasticizers, which are transported by the particles and are susceptible for uptake and accumulation by living organisms. These microplastic can adsorb persistent organic pollutants (POPs) and facilitate their transfer in marine food webs. These POPs can be several orders of magnitude more concentrated in MPs as compared to the surrounding water.

Although the absorption of MPs from different marine organisms began to be reported in the literature about the biological effects of MP are still very limited.

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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)