Over 12,000 Tons of Plastic Ingested by Fish (VIDEO)

Fish in the North Pacific ingest plastic at a rate of roughly 12,000- to 24,000 tons per year, according to researchers from the Scripps Environmental Accumulation of Plastic Expedition (SEAPLEX).

That’s news that should give all of us a bellyache.

Peter Davison and Rebecca Asch, two graduate students from SEAPLEX, traveled more than more than 1,000 miles west of California to the eastern sector of the North Pacific Subtropical Gyre on the Scripps research vessel New Horizon, says Science Daily. They collected numerous samples of fish specimens, water samples and marine debris at both surface level and thousands of feet below the surface.

Of the 141 fishes spanning 27 species dissected in the study, Davison and Asch found that 9.2 percent of the stomach contents of mid-water fishes contained plastic debris, primarily broken-down bits smaller than a human fingernail. The researchers say the majority of the stomach plastic pieces were so small their origin could not be determined.

“About nine percent of examined fishes contained plastic in their stomach. That is an underestimate of the true ingestion rate because a fish may regurgitate or pass a plastic item, or even die from eating it. We didn’t measure those rates, so our nine percent figure is too low by an unknown amount,” said Davison.

You can see photos of the SEAPLEX expedition via Flickr. To get an idea of what the plastic bits found in the fishes’ stomachs look like, here’s a photo of the hundreds of shards of plastic found in the stomach of a sea turtle off the coast of Argentina.

The study was published in Marine Ecology Progress Series.

The SEAPLEX team mostly studied lanternfish, who have luminescent tissue; they play a key role in the food chain as they connect plankton with higher levels. As Asch notes, “We have estimated the incidence at which plastic is entering the food chain and I think there are potential impacts, but what those impacts are will take more research.”

The SEAPLEX researchers were specifically focusing on plastic ingestion and studying such effects as the “toxicological impacts on fish and composition of the plastic” were not part of the study, but would certainly be areas of study to pursue, especially as far the effects of plastic pollution on both fish and the ocean. Who knows what the fish we sit down to eat have themselves ingested?

More about the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” the ocean has become in the video below.

Related Care2 Coverage

Photo of tangled fishing line and other ocean debris — with octopus hooks, mollusks, crustaceans and other organisms — found on Pacifica beach by ingridtaylar.


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Cheryl B.
Cheryl B.4 years ago


Claudia Moreno
Claudia Moreno4 years ago

Horrible! And nothing can be done....

Swadeep Reddy
Swadeep Reddy4 years ago

very sad

Sophie H.
Sophie Hawkins4 years ago

thanks for clarifying my misunderstanding. I should read more carefully and not get so high and mighty! Too much morning coffee? Peace :)

Sophie H.
Sophie Hawkins4 years ago

The article headline reads 12,000 tons of plastic whereas the video says 100 million tons-big difference. Which is it? The author should be more careful in checking stats or explaining the discrepancy-the dinosaurs will use this kind of sloppiness to discredit the environmentalists.

colleen p.
colleen p.4 years ago

blablabla. Vegans use plastic too. don't act so high and mighty.

Janine H.
Janine H.4 years ago

This is a very sad story. Other animals has to go only because "we" humans do not want to share the world with other life forms, these life forms "we" would not eat (vegetarian food is not a bad idea, or eating with conscience as the so called primitive cultures did and still do, if they still exist. No meat/fish every day). "We" destroy averything around us and "we" forget, that everything is important to survive, too.

As little child i thought that rain is when God and the angels cry - because "we" humans have forgotten that we need this "intelligence", someone who could help... if "we" hadn't turned away for many centuries ago...

"Only when the last tree has been cut down; Only when the last river has been poisoned; Only when the last fish has been caught; Only then will you find that money cannot be eaten."
(Native American proverb)

"We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish, but we have not yet learned the simple art of living together as brothers." (Martin Luther King)

Flannel Disaster
Flannel Disaster4 years ago

Still trying to get my parents to stop with the plastic bags and throwing recycling in the garbage and vice versa.
Too bad they don't use the internet or I'd send this to them. :/

KrassiAWAY B.
Krasimira B.4 years ago


Barbara C.
Barbara C.4 years ago

Puma now makes bags that are dissolved by water. It disappears into a liquid. All manufacturers should follow and make their plastic bags to be dissolved by water.