Freshwater fish sample analysis at a Royal Holloway laboratory. (Photo: Royal Holloway, University of London)
Freshwater fish are also ingesting microplastics
Thursday, October 11, 2018, 00:00 (GMT + 9)
A team of researchers studying the extent of plastic pollution in the UK has found that one third of fish living in two freshwater estuaries have ingested microplastics.
These scientists, from Royal Holloway, University of London, University of the West of Scotland and The Natural History Museum, have identified the extent in which it is a threat to marine life and explain that while much attention has been focused on oceanic plastic pollution, this new study explores the impact plastic waste is having on rivers and the freshwater species that inhabit them.
The research examining both upper and lower water species in the Thames Estuary and Firth of Clyde concludes that, out of the 876 fish and shrimp examined across both estuaries, around a third had ingested microplastics, and the average number of plastic pieces that had been consumed was equal across the Thames and Clyde.
“Both rivers are extremely diverse ecosystems, home to hundreds of different species. To see this large number of species that our plastic waste is putting in danger is actually rather shocking,” stressed London NERC DTP PhD student Alexandra McGoran, who led the study.
“Our results show the need for more research into freshwater and estuarine ecosystems to be carried out so we can better understand the effects microplastics are having on their inhabitants,” added McGoran.
Professor David Morritt from the School of Biological Sciences at Royal Holloway, also part of the team, stated that this research is essential in offering an insight into the extent of pollution in UK waters.
“Plastic is a very long-lasting material that is rapidly polluting our planet, all the while posing a threat to the species that live in fresh waters,” Morritt stressed.
For his part, Dr Paul Clark, from the Natural History Museum, said: “Assuming current trends continue then the total amount of plastic produced by 2050 will be 33bn tonnes. Therefore the amount of plastic litter polluting our beautiful blue planet will dramatically escalate over the coming years.”
Clark explained that plastic pollution is on the same calamitous magnitude as climate change and deforestation, adding that all three are being undertaken in the name of vast profit, when what is really required is a monumental behavioural change in human attitudes.
This project, Ingestion of plastic by fish: a comparison of Thames Estuary and Firth of Clyde populations, was partly supported by the University of London Sheina Marshall Memorial Fund.