Pollution of the marine environment is a global problem and, with its durable and persistent properties, plastic debris is an increasing threat to marine life and ecosystems. Most research has focused on how large items of plastic affect organisms through ingestion or entanglement. Much less is known about the role of microplastics, small plastic particles in the environment which can come from a variety of sources including cosmetics, clothing, and industrial processes.
Amy Lusher is an IRC-funded Government of Ireland Postgraduate Scholar based at the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology. Her research is looking at marine microplastics and the implications of their accumulation on trophic systems and food security.
Speaking about her research on RTE One this week, Amy says 'I moved to Galway three years ago to study microplastics and their distribution and implications on the marine environment, mainly because there hadn’t been any studies previous to the research that we were going to do'... 'I went to sea on the Celtic Explorer for a few months and we found microplastics in almost every sample that we took at sea. In my research we looked at a group of fish called mesopelagic fish and we found microplastic in 11% of the fish that we studied. We took out their whole digestive tract and dissolved it, so we knew that whatever we found in our sample was going to have come from inside the animal’… ‘We did find microplastic in commercially sourced fish from previous studies we’ve done. In the English Channel, we found 36% of the fish we looked at to have microplastics in their stomachs’… ‘It’s a very new area of research, 10 years ago we didn’t know that microplastics existed in the marine environment’… ‘I think we need to work a lot more on legislation and more on recycling and reusing plastics in trying to get away from single-use plastics and plastics that aren’t necessarily required in our day-to-day lives’.
The show can be watched in full here.