“Microplastic” is the term given to small plastic particles that arise either from release into the environment or from the breakdown of small fragments of plastic. The microplastic itself may contain additives, and such fragments of microplastic may absorb contaminants from the sea.
It has been shown that plastic particles influence the digestive system of fish and other organisms in the sea. Additives in the plastic and contaminants that become concentrated in microplastic can be absorbed by fish and affect them. They can also be transferred onwards through the food chain or to the next generation of fish.
The project is to study how environmental contaminants accumulate in such fragments of microplastic at several locations selected by scientists along the coast of Norway. The scientists are subsequently to investigate what happens to the ecosystem of Atlantic cod when the fish are exposed to these microplastic particles.
“We plan to study how environmental contaminants in the microplastic are transferred into the food chain, from plankton to cod larvae, the long-term effects of transfer from broodstock to cod larvae, and the physiological effects at the level of individuals,” says scientist André Sture Bogevik of Nofima, who leads the project.
The project is financed by the Research Council of Norway and has been given the name “PlastiCod – Digestion and maternal/paternal transfer of microplastic contaminants in Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) food web”.
A start-up meeting for the project was held in January at Nofima in Tromsø. The participatants included partners from Bellona and the universities of Bergen, Århus in Denmark and Wageningen in the Netherlands. The scientists also visited Nofima’s Centre for Marine Aquaculture at Kvaløya, where much of the activity in the project is to take place.
The results of the project will be used to develop models that simulate the absorption of environmental contaminants into microplastic, and how they influence individuals, populations and the food chain in the marine ecosystem.