João Frias



Managing  for Microplastics: A Baseline to Inform Policy Stakeholders

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Marine anthropogenic litter and microplastic pollution have long been recognised as a global environmental threat with ubiquitous distribution. These novel emergent pollutants have been highlighted by the 2012 Manila Declaration of the United Nations Environment Programme, by the 2017 G7 Leaders Summit and more recently by the National Geographic, who all have acknowledged its impacts and effects on "marine and coastal life, ecosystems and potentially human health".

The persistence of microplastics in the marine environment is a major cause for concern and despite recent efforts to map and estimate amounts, there is still a considerable lack of knowledge regarding its sources, distribution and effects on ecological functioning.  Literature on this topic shows that microplastics are not only restricted to surface waters, and have also been recorded in intertidal and benthic sediments, sea ice and aquatic fauna, ranging from zooplankton to cetaceans. 

The IMP.act - managIng for MicroPlastics: A baseline to inform poliCy sTakeholders - project aims to develop a long-term management plan based on a case-study area in the Republic of Ireland. This management plan intends to establish a working framework dedicated to marine anthropogenic litter and microplastic pollution, according to descriptor 10 of the Marine Strategy Framework Directive (MSFD, 56/CE/2008).

Research will follow an ecosystem-based approach of Galway Bay and its environs, on the West of Ireland, and sampling will focus on microplastics in several habitats including the benthos (intertidal and subtidal) and a variety of marine fauna from different environmental compartments (surface waters, water columns and sediment). 

Sources of microplastics will be identified through monitoring several of the major inputs from both outside and within the Bay itself including the River Corrib.

A model of the ecosystem will be developed based on previously collected data and new field data, focused on hotspots of accumulation and distribution patterns of microplastics within the bay. 

The resulting model can be used as a management tool to inform both managers and policy makers about potential microplastic inputs and accumulation areas in Galway Bay, while serving as a potential tool to promote and/or create mitigation strategies to minimise the impacts of microplastics in this area.

This baseline data will directly contribute to the 10th descriptor of the MSFD and to the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, particularly Goal 4:Quality Education and Goal 14: Life Below Water.



IMP.act aims to:

  1. Identify the main inputs, hotspots of accumulation and sources and distribution patterns of microplastics (MP) in Galway Bay and its environs;

  2. Assess quantitative and qualitative analysis of MP retrieved from surface and water column samples, from subtidal and intertidal sediments and from biota in and/or surrounding Galway Bay;

  3. Assess ingestion of MP in n characteristic marine species in this geographic area;

  4. Provide a spatio-temporal basis for statistical and distribution models;

  5. Create educational outreach and awareness materials and

  6. Develop a management tool to inform policy makers.


Project updates

Sample processing in the lab


Details soon

Surface water samples

Details soon

Biota samples

Details soon

IMP.act online survey

As part of the IMP.act project data collection, we are launching an online survey to estimate perceptions about marine anthropogenic litter and microplastic pollution in Ireland.

The survey takes approximately 15 to 20 minutes to complete and it consists of 40 questions. There are no right or wrong answers, as our interest is your current knowledge and opinions about the subject.

The survey is available online here or using the QR code on the left.

We are looking forward to your answers!


The survey will be online until the 31/05/2019, so if you have not submitted your answers yet, please do so before the deadline. Thanks for your collaboration!


We take this opportunity to thank the 320 anonymous participants from 19 counties for completing the IMP.act survey.


We are already processing the survey data among other activities within the IMP.act project. Stay tuned for more updates soon.



Work Packages

IMP.act research goals are divided into five work packages: 

  • WP1 - Baseline characterisation of microplastic sources, inputs and relevant stakeholders in the study area;

  • WP2 - Data collection in Galway Bay and environs;

  • WP3 - Spatio-temporal basis for models;

  • WP4 - Outreach, awareness, science communication and dissemination of results;

  • WP5 - Data integration to inform policy.




Reports, DPSIR model, educational materials (soon)

Peer-reviewed publications (available by request on ResearchGate or via email)

Interactive map about microplastics in Galway Bay (soon)

Models that fit the interactive map (soon)

Dissemination strategy (soon)


Outreach and dissemination


H2020 Career Progression for Marie Skłodowska-Curie actions (MSCA) fellows in Ireland

Attendance in the MSCA event in Dublin, 12th September 2018, where I pitched to Jim Carroll, editor of RTEBrainstorm the IMP.act project


International Coastal Cleanup 2018 - Galway

Beach cleanup action in #Galway in the 15th September 2018, along the shoreline at Claddagh beside Nimmo’s Pier. #InternationalCoastalCleanup #citizenscience #marinelitter #microplastics


National Day of the Sea in Portugal in FCT-UNL

Invited speaker to raise awareness about marine litter and microplastic pollution in the one-day event organised by the Library of the Faculty of Sciences and Technology of Universidade Nova de Lisboa (16th November 2018)


International Conference #MICRO2018 in Lanzarote, Canary Islands, Spain

Sharing results from JPI-Oceans BASEMAN project and from IRC funded IMP.act project between 19th and 23rd of November 2018


IMP.act.sea.I cruise (CV19003) on board of the R/V Celtic Voyager

A team composed of young researchers, MSc students and PhD students boarded the Celtic Voyager between 2nd and 6th of February 2019, to collect water surface, sediment and biota samples that contribute to the IMP.act project. The link below directs to the Marine Institute Scientists at Sea blog


JPI-Oceans Seminar January 2019

The seminar aimed to inform and interact about ongoing JPI Oceans actions and projects and their policy impact; to galvanize synergies and collaboration with the European Commission, European Parliament and other international (scientific) organisations and highlight the added value of JPI-Oceans and its importance in the marine research policy landscape.

The seminar was organised at the Royal Flemish Academy of Belgium for Science and the Arts, Rue Ducale 1, Brussels on 17 January 2019 from 12.00 to 17.00.

Photos by Willem De Moor avaliable in the JPI Oceans gallery. More details in the link below


IWDG - Dolphin necropsies in the Regional Veterinary Laboratory Cork

On the 21st of March 2019, we head down to the RVL in Cork to observe our first dolphin necropsies performed by an expert veterinary doctor.


Funding and Partner Organisations

IMP.act is supported by the Irish Research Council in the framework of the Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions COFUND Collaborative Research Fellowships for a Responsive and Innovative Europe (CAROLINE) scheme, under the fellowship reference CLNE/2018/524.

The project is a partnership between the Marine and Freshwater Research Centre of the Galway-Mayo Institute of Technology (MFRC-GMIT) and the Irish Whale and Dolphin Group (IWDG).