Plastics in an endemic fish species (Alburnus sellal) and its parasite (Ligula intestinalis) in the Upper Tigris River, Türkiye

Aytan Ü., Esensoy F. B., Arifoğlu E., İpek Z. Z., Kaya C.

Science of the Total Environment , vol.0, no.0, 2023 (SCI-Expanded)


Occurrence of micro-, meso- and macroplastics in Alburnus sellal and its parasite Ligula intestinalis is reported for the first time in the Tigris River, one of the two large rivers that defines Mesopotamia. Plastic occurrence was assessed from museum fish materials collected in the upper Tigris River between 2007 and 2021. Plastics were found in 57 % of A. sellal specimens (536 individuals) and in 74 % of L. intestinalis specimens (57 individuals). Mean plastic ingestion was 1.27 ± 1.30 items. fish−1 and 1.77 ± 1.79 items. parasite−1 considering all the fish and parasites analysed. Fibres were the most common types of plastics, comprising 96.2 % and 81 % of plastics in A. sellal and L. intestinalis, respectively. Black was the most common colour of plastics found in both fish (37 %) and parasite specimens (58 %). Microplastics comprised 95.5 % and 100 % of plastics found in A. sellal and L. intestinalis, respectively. In both specimens acrylic (PAN) was the most common polymer as confirmed by FTIR spectroscopy. Differences in plastic ingestion were not significantly over time and among regions. No significant correlation was found between plastics ingestion by fish and by parasites. The present assessment shows that native fish species of the Tigris River have been contaminated by plastics by more than a decade. Our results contribute to a better understanding of the status of plastic pollution in fish and parasites, provide plastic pollution baseline data for the Tigris River and highlight the urgent need to elucidate on the distribution and fate of plastics in freshwater environments and their effects on the ecosystem and humans.