Plastic particles have been found in almost three-quarters of fish living in the ocean three-quarters had consumed multiple tiny pieces of plastic, with one spotted lanternfish 4.5cm long found to have 13 particles in its stomach. Scientists examined 233 fish in a polluted area of the northwest Atlantic at depths of up to 600m. They found that 73 percent had consumed plastic, “making it one of the highest reported frequencies of microplastic occurrence in fish worldwide.” The species examined provide an important food source for many large predators such as dolphins, seals and tuna as well as seabirds.
The authors of the study, published in Frontiers in Marine Science, said the contamination could pose a threat to human health because it worked its way up the food chain. They said the fish also absorbed chemical pollutants that had either accumulated on the plastic while in the sea or been added to it during production. The pollutants include polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), which were used in flame retardants, paints and sealants. PCBs were banned in the UK in 1981. The study concluded, “Such high numbers of microplastics in the gut contents of mesopelagic fish [which live at depths of between 100m and 1,000m], is of great concern.”
Tom Doyle, a co-author at the National University of Ireland Galway, said: “It’s worrying to think that our daily activities, such as washing our clothes in our washing machines, results in billions of microplastics entering our oceans that may eventually end up in these deep-sea fishes.”
Credit: Ben Webster for The Times, 20 February 2018.