Microplastics have been identified as an emergent pollutant in the aquatic environment. Ingestion of microplastics in the wild by various biota has been documented around the globe, but little has been documented on sea cucumbers and none on microplastics in sea cucumbers in the Caribbean region. In this study, we document the presence of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of the sea cucumber Holothuria floridana collected from the Placencia Lagoon, Belize, Central America. The collection site is surrounded by an active tourist and fishing community that was observed to discharge solid waste directly and indirectly into the lagoon habitats of H. floridana. The results confirms the ingestion of microplastics by H. floridana. From 30 individuals averaging 22.5 cm in length, a total of 252 microplastic particles were extracted, isolated, and categorized. The mean number of microplastic particles per individual sea cucumber was 8.4 ±4.5, with a mean length of 0.703 mm ±0.706. The microplastics identified were plastic fragments (93%) and fibers (7%); with no evidence of plastic pellets (0%). This finding raises concerns regarding the chemical effects these plastics can have on human health, especially since sea cucumber intestines are consumed as luxury foods in Asian countries.
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Vol. 51 • No. 2