Microplastics in the Arctic Benthic Fauna: A Case Study of the Snow Crab in the Pechora Sea, Russia

Anna Gebruk, Yulia Ermilova, Lea-Anne Henry, Sian Henley, Vassily Spiridonov, Nikolay Shabalin, Alexander Osadchiev, Evgeniy Yakushev, Igor Semiletov, Vadim Mokievsky

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review

Abstract / Description of output

Microplastics have been declared a threat to ocean health and status under the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 14 Target 14.1. Microplastics are bioavailable for a wide range of marine organisms and may cause adverse physiological and biochemical effects, including decreased growth and energy intake, and impaired reproduction. Accumulation of microplastics in benthic (seafloor) fauna is of particular concern in commercially important species, as this poses threats to human health. A baseline assessment of microplastic ingestion by Arctic benthic fauna is of urgent necessity.

In this chapter, we present initial results on microplastics ingestion by nine species of benthic fauna from the Pechora Sea, south-eastern Barents Sea, including the snow crab Chionoecetes opilio, a commercially-exploited and invasive benthic crustacean. From a sample set of 154 specimens, we compare microplastics ingestion by snow crabs with that of the eight other species to assess the impact of different feeding strategies on ingestion rates. Microplastic fibres were recorded in 35% of snow crab stomachs and 21% of stomachs of all species studied. Benthic omnivores (organisms with flexible feeding strategies) are shown to have more ingested microplastics (29%) than sessile filter-feeding organisms (17%).

A comprehensive and well-integrated monitoring program is needed in the Arctic for monitoring of microplastic pollution in both benthic and pelagic ecosystems, with consideration of regionally-specific features, such as seasonality of the ice cover, primary production, and riverine discharge. We believe that the Regional Action Plan on Marine litter in the Arctic currently under development by the Arctic Council’s Protection of the Arctic Marine Environment (PAME) Working Group will constitute an internationally-recognised framework for investigation and mitigation of plastic pollution in the Arctic. More broadly, adding ingestion rates of microplastics by benthic fauna to the SDG indicator 14.1.1 as a globally-important indicator of the impacts of plastic pollution would greatly advance development of a more comprehensive understanding of ecosystem status and mitigation measures to reduce plastic pollution globally.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publication Building Common Interests in the Arctic Ocean with Global Inclusion
EditorsPaul Arthur Berkman, Alexander N. Vylegzhanin, Oran R. Young, David A. Balton, Ole Rasmus Øvretveit
ISBN (Electronic)978-3-030-89312-5
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 8 May 2022

Publication series

NameInformed Decisionmaking for Sustainability
ISSN (Print)2662-4516
ISSN (Electronic)2662-4524


Dive into the research topics of 'Microplastics in the Arctic Benthic Fauna: A Case Study of the Snow Crab in the Pechora Sea, Russia'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this