Microplastics in brown trout Salmo trutta Linnaeus, 1758 from an Irish riverine system

O'Connor, J.D.; Murphy, S.; Lally, H.T.; O'Connor, L.; Nash, R.; O'Sullivan, J.; Bruen, M.; Heerey, L.; Koelmans, A.A.; Cullagh, A.; Cullagh, D.; Mahon, A.M.


Rivers play an important role in the overall transport of microplastic pollution (1 μm to 5 mm), with fluvial dynamics expected to influence biotic interactions, particularly for fish. So far, there have been few assessments of microplastics in freshwater salmonids. The prevalence (i.e. percentage occurrence) and burden (i.e. abundance per fish) of microplastics were assessed in the gastrointestinal tracts (GITs) and stomach contents (SCs) of 58 brown trout Salmo trutta Linnaeus, 1758 sampled at six sites along the River Slaney catchment in south-east Ireland. Sites were divided into two classifications (high and low exposure) based on proximity to microplastic pollution sources, comprising three sites each. Analysis of biological traits (e.g. fish length) and diet was performed on the same fish to determine possible factors explaining microplastic burden. Microplastics were found in 72% of fish having been recovered from 66% of GITs (1.88 ± 1.53 MPs fish⁻1) and 28% of SCs (1.31 ± 0.48 MPs fish⁻1). Fibres were the dominant particle type recovered from GITs (67%) and SCs (57%) followed by fragments. No difference in median microplastic burden was observed between fish collected in high and low exposure sites. Microplastic burden was unrelated to fish fork length, while microplastic size distribution (100 ≤ 350 μm, 350 μm to ≤ 5 mm) was unrelated to S. trutta age class estimates. Furthermore, microplastic burden was not explained by dietary intake. Though further research is necessary, this study showed the presence of microplastics in wild S. trutta collected from an Irish riverine system, which could have further implications for top-level consumers that feed on the species, including humans. Further analysis is required to determine possible trophic linkages for the species, with respect to microplastics, and to assess the suitability of S. trutta for monitoring microplastics in river systems.