The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has awarded MBL Fellow Linda Amaral-Zettler and colleagues a grant to study the impact of microplastics on sea scallop populations. Eight million metric tons of plastic winds up in the ocean every year, and scallops are one of the most important fisheries in the US Northeast. Some of the plastic finds its way into the digestive tracts of marine life and potentially humans due to ingestion of contaminated seafood.
Amaral-Zettler’s work will focus on how pieces of plastic smaller than a corn kernel arrive in the Mid-Atlantic Bight and Georges Bank, which support important commercial fisheries. She and her colleagues will track the paths of the plastic and determine what seasonal forces could be cycling it downward to the scallops. They will also investigate if the ingestion of plastic aids in the spread of pathogens that can infect sea scallops.
The study will be conducted in collaboration with Tracy Mincer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution.
Photo: Marine plastic debris. Credit: Erik Zettler.