Cetaceans threatened by microplastics
Scientists at the University of Siena, together with American and Australian colleagues, have raised an alarm over pollution from microplastics, particles derived from the degradation of plastic waste, which pose threats to whales, manta rays and sharks in our oceans. These are the results of a study carried out by University of Siena, together with Marine Megafauna Foundation, and Murdoch University, and published by Trends in Ecology & Evolution.
“Thanks to this study, we are drawing international attention to the issue of the impact of microplastics on the health of ocean giants, and we are sounding an alarm over a global issue”, said Professor Maria Cristina Fossi from the University of Siena, one of the first scientists to study the impact of the pollutants and toxic substances contained in plastics on the health of whales and sharks. “By studying large animals, which feed on plankton and prey, and accumulate large amounts of pollutants through their diet, we can assess the impact of the problem on marine fauna. We have known for years that microplastics in the Mediterranean Sea, which is a closed and densely populated sea, has reached an alarming level”.
Previous studies carried out by UNISI in the Mediterranean showed the presence of phthalates, harmful compounds from plastic material, in plankton and in plantophagous organisms, substances that, once metabolized, can have toxic effects on cetaceans, also affecting reproduction.
“Now that international attention has been drawn to this issue, we want to deepen our understanding of the toxicological effects, also defining the pollution threshold that creates a major impact on the food chain, and, ultimately, on the fish that we humans eat”, Professor Fossi concluded.