Overview of global status of plastic presence in marine vertebrates

Sergio López‐Martínez, Carmen Morales-Caselles, Julianna Kadar, Marga L. Rivas*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

42 Citations (Scopus)


The presence of plastic in the environment is generating impacts on all habitats and has become a major global problem in marine megafauna. Macroplastics can cause entanglement, ingestion and loss of suitable habitats. In addition to entanglement problems, there is evidence that plastics are entering the food web through ingestion by marine organisms, which could ultimately be affecting humans. Much of the available information on the impact of plastic in biota is scattered and disconnected due to the use of different methodologies. Here, we review the variety of approaches and protocols followed to assess macro‐ and microplastic ingestion in marine vertebrates such as sea turtles, cetaceans and fishes in order to offer a global overview of their current status. The analysis of 112 studies indicates the highest plastic ingestion in organisms collected in the Mediterranean and Northeast Indian Ocean with significant differences among plastic types ingested by different groups of animals, including differences in colour and the type of prevalent polymers. In sea turtles, the most prevalent types of plastics are white plastics (66.60%), fibres (54.54%) and LDPE polymer (39.09%); in cetaceans, white macro‐ and microplastics (38.31%), fibres (79.95%) and PA polymer (49.60%); and in fishes, transparent plastics (45.97%), fibres (66.71%) and polyester polymer (36.20%). Overall, clear fibre microplastics are likely the most predominant types ingested by marine megafauna around the globe.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)728-737
Number of pages10
JournalGlobal Change Biology
Issue number4
Early online date27 Oct 2020
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2021


  • apical consumers, global change, macroplastic, marine conservation, microplastic, predators
  • predators
  • macroplastic
  • apical consumers
  • global change
  • marine conservation
  • microplastic


Dive into the research topics of 'Overview of global status of plastic presence in marine vertebrates'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this