Science/Tech

Plastic Outnumber Baby Fish In Some Coastal Nurseries

These days, the current plastic waste problem is unfortunately found all over the world, from landfills brimming with trash to even the ocean, where scientists have managed to find microplastic particles down in deep sea trenches.

And now, a new report reveals that plastic can also enter the food web at a new way: by entering the bodies of larval fish that are as minuscule as the top of a pencil.

Plastics Outnumber Larval Fish

According to the new report, which was published Monday in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, due to larval fish congregating in coastal nurseries alongside prey-sized plastics, the amount of the actual fishes are outnumbered 7-to-1.

“This is perhaps the most vulnerable life stage of pelagic fish,” Anela Choy, a biological oceanographer at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography in La Jolla, California, who wasn’t involved in the study, said. In the past, she has studied how plastic accumulation is a big problem in our oceans, and has said that this new study highlights the kind of negative effects that it can bring on its inhabitants, especially on ones that are still young and fragile.

Per the researchers, who studied over 11,000 larval fish from 2016 to 2018, 8 percent had eaten prey-sized microplastics.

“The vast majority of larval fish die before reaching adulthood, so the poor diet comes at a time when the fish are already exceedingly vulnerable, ” Gareth Williams, co-author and a marine biologist at Bangor University in Anglesey, Wales, said. 

“We were shocked,” Jonathan Whitney, a marine ecologist for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in Honolulu, added.  “A five-minute tow in what looks like crystal clear water can turn up 10,000 pieces of plastic.”

At the moment, little is still known about the consequences of larval fish eating plastic. Nevertheless, experts are positive that whatever it is, it can’t be good for them. In fact, adult fish that’s ingested plastic has been linked to behavioral problems, malnutrition, liver toxicity, tumors and even death. Since larval fish are still young and are not as developed, the effects of plastic ingestion could be worse.

Plastic Pollution Estimates show the ocean already contains 1.4 million trillion microfibers and nearly 10 species of marine animals ingested plastics. Pixabay

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