Are anthropogenic fibres a real problem for red mullets (Mullus barbatus) from the NW Mediterranean?

Oriol Rodríguez-Romeu, María Constenla*, Maite Carrassón, Mariano Campoy-Quiles, Anna Soler-Membrives

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

16 Citations (Scopus)


Microfibres are among the most prevalent type of microplastics in marine environments. Man-made fibres derived from cellulose are distributed worldwide, but are often confused with synthetic plastic fibres and consequently neglected. All these fibres may adversely affect aquatic organisms, but their levels and potential effects in wild fish remain unknown. We analysed anthropogenic fibre (AF) ingestion in the red mullet (Mullus barbatus), at both temporal and geographical scales, to assess potential effects of these fibres on fish health condition. AFs were present in 50% of fish digestive tracts, with a mean of 1.48 AFs per individual (SD = 1.98). In Barcelona, an increase of 46% in AF ingestion was observed in 2018 compared to 2007. AF ingestion also increases by 20% when Barcelona is compared to a less urban area (the town of Blanes). Visual characterization of fibres by typologies—corroborated by Raman spectroscopy—allowed classification and identification of 88% of AFs as cellulosic (57%), and synthetic polymers (PET) (31%). In all sampling stations, the only histopathological alterations were cysts of unknown etiology, and the most abundant parasites were nematodes. None of these alterations, parasite load, or other fish health indicators (condition indices) indicate an effect of AF ingestion.

Original languageEnglish
Article number139336
JournalScience of the Total Environment
Publication statusPublished - 1 Sep 2020


  • Anthropogenic fibres
  • Fibre ingestion
  • Mediterranean Sea
  • Microplastics
  • Mullus barbatus
  • Plastic pollution


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