The use of European shag pellets as indicators of microplastic fibers in the marine environment

Álvarez, G., Barros, Á. and Velando, A., 2018. The use of European shag pellets as indicators of microplastic fibers in the marine environment. Marine Pollution Bulletin, 137, pp.444-448.

Microplastic particles are abundant marine pollutants that are ingested by many seabirds. Some seabirds regurgitate non-digestible materials in the form of pellets and their analysis may be useful to study the abundance of plastic debris at the local scale. Here, we aimed to provide baseline data for the presence of microplastics in pellets regurgitated by European shags (Phalacrocorax aristotelis) (n = 41) in the Iberia peninsula (NW Spain). We found microplastic fibers in 63% of pellets, suggesting that this type of plastic pollution is prevalent in the study area. According to Fourier Transform Infrared spectrometry, nylon fibers were the most abundant, followed by polyester. We also found that the presence of microplastics was higher in pellets containing remains of benthic fishes. Our results suggest that shag pellets may be useful to monitor microplastic pollution in coastal waters.