Standard Talk (15 mins) Australian Society for Fish Biology Conference 2022

Microplastic in oysters: A review of global trends and comparison to southern Australia (#103)

Nina Wootton 1 , Koster Sarakinis 1 , Rufino Varea 2 , Patrick Reis-Santos 1 , Bronwyn Gillanders 1
  1. The University of Adelaide, Adelaide, SA, Australia
  2. The University of the South Pacific, Suva, Fiji

Microplastics have been documented in a plethora of marine environments and organisms. These small plastics threaten ecosystem health, with implications for seafood species’ health. Oysters are an important cultural and economic aquaculture species globally. Due to their filter feeding mechanisms, oysters act as a key indicator species by serving as a proxy for environmental contamination. This makes them the ideal organism for investigating microplastic pollution. Here, we first systematically reviewed the global literature investigating microplastic in oysters. Globally, 94.4% of all oysters had microplastics, with an average of 1.41 ± 0.33 pieces per gram of soft tissue wet weight (gww). The review found that wild-caught oysters contained more than double the amount of microplastic than aquaculture raised specimens, likely reflecting the clean and productive waters in which oyster aquaculture systems are commonly located. Second, we quantified microplastic presence and polymer type in commercially farmed oysters (Crassostrea gigas and Saccostrea glomerata) across a broad spatial scale, covering eight sites in southern Australia. Microplastics were present in 49.4% of all sampled oysters, with specimens from all locations containing microplastics. On average, whole oysters contained 0.83 ± 0.08 microplastics per individual or 0.09 ± 0.01 microplastics gww. Using Fourier-Transform Infrared Spectroscopy, we identified that 62% of the verified microplastics were vexar plastic netting, a low-density polyethylene commonly used in aquaculture production. Understanding the abundance and source of microplastic in these key seafood species is essential to determine if oysters are vulnerable to these contaminants and pose a risk to the oyster aquaculture industry which is an important food resource.