The impact of debris on marine life

Mar Pollut Bull. 2015 Mar 15;92(1-2):170-179. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2014.12.041. Epub 2015 Feb 10.


Marine debris is listed among the major perceived threats to biodiversity, and is cause for particular concern due to its abundance, durability and persistence in the marine environment. An extensive literature search reviewed the current state of knowledge on the effects of marine debris on marine organisms. 340 original publications reported encounters between organisms and marine debris and 693 species. Plastic debris accounted for 92% of encounters between debris and individuals. Numerous direct and indirect consequences were recorded, with the potential for sublethal effects of ingestion an area of considerable uncertainty and concern. Comparison to the IUCN Red List highlighted that at least 17% of species affected by entanglement and ingestion were listed as threatened or near threatened. Hence where marine debris combines with other anthropogenic stressors it may affect populations, trophic interactions and assemblages.

Keywords: Biodiversity; Garbage; Harm; Microplastics; Mortality; Ocean litter.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Aquatic Organisms*
  • Biodiversity*
  • Endangered Species
  • Environmental Exposure / adverse effects
  • Plastics
  • Waste Products* / analysis


  • Plastics
  • Waste Products