Microplastic pollution in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean: validated and opportunistic sampling

Mar Pollut Bull. 2014 Nov 15;88(1-2):325-33. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.08.023. Epub 2014 Sep 12.


Levels of marine debris, including microplastics, are largely un-documented in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean. Broad scale monitoring efforts are required to understand the distribution, abundance and ecological implications of microplastic pollution. A method of continuous sampling was developed to be conducted in conjunction with a wide range of vessel operations to maximise vessel time. Transects covering a total of 12,700 km were sampled through continuous monitoring of open ocean sub-surface water resulting in 470 samples. Items classified as potential plastics were identified in 94% of samples. A total of 2315 particles were identified, 89% were less than 5mm in length classifying them as microplastics. Average plastic abundance in the Northeast Atlantic was calculated as 2.46 particles m(-3). This is the first report to demonstrate the ubiquitous nature of microplastic pollution in the Northeast Atlantic Ocean and to present a potential method for standardised monitoring of microplastic pollution.

Keywords: Continuous monitoring; Fibres; Neuston; Plastic; Sub-surface.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Validation Study

MeSH terms

  • Atlantic Ocean
  • Conservation of Natural Resources
  • Environmental Monitoring / methods*
  • Plastics / analysis*
  • Waste Products / analysis
  • Water / chemistry*
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical / analysis*


  • Plastics
  • Waste Products
  • Water Pollutants, Chemical
  • Water