Plastic fragments found in the stomach of a marine fish. (Photo: Algalita.org)
Plastic found inside Pacific Ocean fish: researchers
Monday, March 14, 2011, 01:40 (GMT + 9)
Researchers who collected fish in the northern Pacific Ocean in 2008 said 35 per cent of the fish contained fragments of plastic in their stomachs. This marks the problematic effect that floating litter is having on marine wildlife, the researchers insist.
The study’s findings will be presented by the Long Beach, California-based Algalita Marine Research Foundation and the Southern California Coastal Water Research Project.
Researchers found that the fish had ingested two pieces of plastic each on average. However, scientists who dissected hundreds of plankton-eating lanternfish found that these fish contained as many as 83 plastic fragments each, reports The Los Angeles Times.
The study then raises concerns regarding how garbage makes its way back into the human body as it works its way through the food chain.
Further, the findings highlight the increasing problem of floating marine debris gathered in vast, slow-moving ocean currents known as gyres, such as the North Atlantic Gyre off the coast of Georgia, US, and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, located within the North Pacific Gyre – currently the largest concentration of plastic waste on the planet.
Nonprofit Algalita runs scientific studies on the global spread of marine debris and pushes for limiting the world’s "plastic footprint" on water bodies like rivers and oceans. The Costa Mesa-based Coastal Water Research Project is an environmental research institute funded by 14 government agencies.
Together, the researchers trawled 1,000 mi off the coast for this study, seeking fish among floating debris particles in the Eastern Garbage Patch. Researchers then dissected and examined the fish at a lab.
Most of the fish found were lanternfish -- deep-sea dwellers that are both one of the most common ocean fish and a food source for popular species like tuna and mahi-mahi.
"As the larger pieces of plastic break down they mimic the size, shape and texture of natural food," said Charles Moore, the founder of Algalita and an author of the study. "What we're seeing is the entire food web being contaminated by plastic."
The study was published in the scientific journal Marine Pollution Bulletin and the research will be presented this month at the Fifth International Marine Debris Conference in Honolulu, Hawaii.
A study by French and Belgian biologists last January found more than 250,000 million plastic particles weighing over 500 tonnes floating in the Mediterranean Sea and also concluded that such phenomena infiltrate the entire ecosystem, covering the spectrum from plankton to humans.
- Over 500 tonnes of plastics threaten Mediterranean marine life
- Confirmation of plastic island in the Atlantic
- Group plans to turn trash vortex into island eco-paradise
By Natalia Real