Ms Ní Riada, who sits on the EU Fisheries Committee, has also called for greater legislation to protect our oceans from microplastics.
The Ireland South MEP was speaking after a study by NUI Galway revealed that 73% of deep water fish living in the northwest Atlantic had ingested plastic particles.
“Microplastics are an ecological ticking time bomb,” she said.
“While results showing that 73% of tested fish had ingested plastic is concerning enough, the fact that this study was conducted thousands of kilometres from land at a depth of 600 metres shows just how pervasive the problem of microplastics has become.
“These particles are so embedded in the fish and difficult to dispose of that they not only affect the fish that ingest them but the fish that eat those fish.
“I recently raised this issue with EU Marine Commissioner Karmenu Vella and stressed the need for an EU wide approach to tackling the problem. Neither fish nor plastic pollution recognise international borders, this should be a concern for all of us.
“We need to see Governments, including the Irish Government, develop a cross-industry strategy as a matter of urgency. Greater pressure needs to be put on manufacturers to either not use these materials or at the very least use purely non-toxic ones.
“Incentives that already exist for vessels to gather plastics while at sea should also be expanded. Under the operational program of the EMFF the incentive for fishermen to gather plastic exists but it is too little and BIM need to be far more proactive in expanding and promoting the schemes.
“We do not yet know the full extent of the harm these microplastics may cause but what we do know is that they are already more pervasive than we thought. We must act now rather than find out the truth too late.”