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Fish Eat Plastic, We Eat Fish

Health & Wellness  (tags: diet, environment, food, healthcare, nutrition, protection, research, risks, safety, science, society )

- 1791 days ago -
"Over a six-year period, researchers investigated the stomach contents of 595 fish representing 10 predatory open-ocean species, including commercially valuable tunas and billfishes. Seven of the 10 species were found have ingested some form of debris->

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Kit B (276)
Monday July 29, 2013, 6:18 am
Photo Credit: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Owen and Aki

Hawaii's predatory fish are eating plastic (and we are eating them...)

University of Hawaii, Mănoa, reports on a recent study that shows just what big fish are having for dinner. And it includes more plastic than we ever thought before.

The university reports, "Over a six-year period, researchers investigated the stomach contents of 595 fish representing 10 predatory open-ocean species, including commercially valuable tunas and billfishes. Seven of the 10 species were found have ingested some form of debris, with varying degrees of frequency."

Looking at two different species of opah (moonfish), which is commonly eaten around the world, researchers found that 58% of small-eye opah and 43% of big-eye opah had eaten some kind of plastic debris. Additionally, 30% of longnosed lancetfish, a fish commonly caught but not eaten by humans, had eaten debris, indicating that fish all along the food chain are ingesting some form of plastic pollution.

“What was most surprising was that the fish that most frequently ingested debris are all thought to be deeper water species, generally those that live beneath the sunlit upper 500 to 600 feet of the water column,” says Anela Choy, a UH Mānoa graduate student and lead author of the study, in the university press release.

This could mean that deeper water fish are coming up to the surface to eat debris, or it could be that plastics are sinking down to them, which can happen as pieces are colonized by algae and biofilm and get heavier.

From Hawaii News Now:

"A lot of the plastic we found in the opah especially was white or clear in color we thought that they are maybe, possibly confusing the pieces with prey," said Choy.

It might be comforting to know that various tunas, mackerel and swordfish had very little to no debris found in their stomachs. Seven of the 10 fish studied didn't eat much plastic at all. So why do some fish eat it and others don't?

"Lancetfish and opah they tend to gravitate toward gelatinous fish to prey upon. Perhaps tuna not so much they more kind of chase their prey," said Lesley Jantz, Fishery Biologist, NOAA fisheries observer program.

So does that mean we should eat more tuna and less opah? Not necessarily but the fact is we don't know.

The plastic debris in the study is of the more obvious kind, as the pieces in the stomachs of fish were large enough to be identified. But a concern of many scientists is the fact that much smaller pieces of plastic are ingested by smaller fish, which are eaten by medium fish, which are eaten by larger fish, which are eaten by us. So just exactly how we are consuming plastic might not be as obvious. For example, plastic microfibers are released into the waterways when we wash our clothes, and small microbes at the base of the food chain are now known to feast on plastic. Researchers have also known for awhile now that microbeads found in exfoliating soap that are washed down our drains find their way into fishes' stomachs, and those fish are eaten by other animals. A few major manufacturers are only just now phasing out plastic microbeads from products, which will take years. So we know that plastic has already entered the food chain to some degree. We just don't know the full impact, or what it means to us as eaters.

Indeed, the University of Hawaii study comes to a rather obvious conclusion: "These observations are the first of their kind in scope and in number, and they suggest that more attention should be given to marine debris in subsurface waters, as well as to the potential food web implications for human consumption."

More attention definitely needs to be given to both issues, since we still do not know how human health is affected by eating fish that have eaten plastic and the chemicals in the plastics. For now all that's known is that the plastic problem is still spreading.

By: Jaymi Heimbuch | Tree Hugger |

Nicole W (646)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:01 am
sorry, not worried about human health. fish should not be exposed to plastics, mankind brought this problem on themselves. mankind needs to correct it now! thanks Kit

Anne P (174)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:05 am
Of great interest - thanks for posting, Kit. Another reason to go organic vegan!

JL A (281)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:29 am
More evidence that it is often what people and planners don't think about that are what will "bite" us in the end.

Anna Undebeck (256)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:48 am
Thanks for another interesting post , Kit!

Theodore Shayne (56)
Monday July 29, 2013, 10:40 am
We see the surface problem on the oceans. That is easily cleaned up if the PTBs would get with the program and instead of giving themselves bonuses; fund the actual cleanup.
The more serious problem is all the microscopic particles that are created due to the affect of sunlight, salt and friction caused by wave motion that helps in the decomposition of the plastic solids. Corralling that and removing it is now next to impossible.

. (0)
Monday July 29, 2013, 12:51 pm
Just a completely disturbing, yes, horrible article.

Birgit W (160)
Monday July 29, 2013, 1:22 pm
Very true article. Thank you.

Kate Kenner (215)
Monday July 29, 2013, 3:17 pm
Well at least people have a choice whether to eat fish, the fish have none as they sure do not expect to have foreign substances in their food.

Kit B (276)
Monday July 29, 2013, 3:49 pm

True Kate, neither the fish nor the sea birds can avert the plastic and other trash we dump in the ocean.

Sheryl G (360)
Monday July 29, 2013, 4:07 pm
Toxins in the air, water and food, that plastic is being eaten is no surprise, our oceans have been the dumping grounds for years.

Plastic people takes on a whole new meaning........
Plastic Raincoats Hung Up Minds

Kit B (276)
Monday July 29, 2013, 4:12 pm

Lawdy me oh my! A trip in the way back machine, Dandelion.

Sheryl G (360)
Monday July 29, 2013, 4:19 pm
Amazing where my mind goes when I read certain Always liked this band and caught them playing a great many times in person, as they were out of Boston and I lived just 30 miles north of the city.

Kit B (276)
Monday July 29, 2013, 4:21 pm

Thanks for the memories, I lived in Boston back then, a long time ago on planet far, far away.

MmAway M (507)
Monday July 29, 2013, 4:32 pm
Going to take a peek at Dande's video. TU Kit...Going to finish my TOXIC DINNER!! GAG!

marie C (163)
Monday July 29, 2013, 5:36 pm
Yes Kit very interesting
Selfridges a major department store in London are very involved in Saving the Oceans they did a thing where so much went to this charity on whatever you spent
I very rarely eat fish the occasional piece of cod but it saddens me how small they have become

Sheila D (194)
Monday July 29, 2013, 6:45 pm
Seldom eat fish anymore. Read and noted with frustration that this is happening and thre's little being done on amy level. Thank you.

Bill C (353)
Monday July 29, 2013, 6:49 pm
Farmed Tilapia eat striped bass poop

I doubt you wish to know what most bottom dwellers we consume eat

Does the fish digest the plastic? Just curious but this clearly has a lot of what if and maybe to it

I suggest more information before the panic

Kit B (276)
Monday July 29, 2013, 6:55 pm

There is no panic, just information and no fish cannot digest plastic. Can you?

Connie O (44)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:06 pm
I rarely eat fish...interesting article.

Lois Jordan (63)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:38 pm
Thanks for the info, Kit. Just another reason for me to continue to not eat fish. I used to occasionally like it.....

Past Member (0)
Monday July 29, 2013, 8:59 pm
This is just terrible. I don't see it changing 4 the better unless we abort most plastics---and sadly we may all be long gone by then. Tho I don't eat fish or any breathing being---I feel 4 the poor fish. Thx Kit

Past Member (0)
Monday July 29, 2013, 9:28 pm
Well said Natasha!

Laurie H (817)
Monday July 29, 2013, 9:30 pm
I too do not eat any animals, but feel for what they've been subjected to by humans, for far too long. So Many Thanks Kit for bringing this info to us!!~

Past Member (0)
Monday July 29, 2013, 11:37 pm
Thanks to you I read also some other interesting articles... Thank you so much for everything!

Lloyd H (46)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 5:46 am
Interesting, disgusting and more than a little misleading. Sorry Kit, but the article intentionally gives the impression that there is is a health hazard to humans, which is not proven. Saying, Eating and ingesting plastics does more than just suggest digesting the plastic and passing the components up the food chain. The problem with Marine animals, with the exception of a few microbes, ingesting plastic is the fact that they can neither digest or pass the plastic and die from starvation not poisoning from digestion. Unfortunately the problem caused by Human Trash Spreaders is not that the food we gather from the seas is inedible it is the fact that the Plastic Garbage is not biodegradable in the oceans or in the digestive tracts of aquatic life. Plastic is going to starve out the entire food chain, human included by replacing edible parts of the food chain with biologically inert plastic in sizes that range from larger than a bread box to as small dust mote.

Ruth C (87)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:02 am
I say the same as Nicole.

Mari 's (1356)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:24 am
Plastic and Mercury levels. We couldn't fish in some parts of Maine because of the high mercury levels. So we have plastic and mercury! Nice toxic combo :P Another reason to stop eating fish until they clean this mess up!!

Winnie A (179)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 6:45 am
Thanks - very sad it doesn't have to be this way.

Kathleen R (138)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 11:14 am
noted & signed

Kathleen R (138)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 11:14 am
Meant to say noted & shared.

Wolfgang W (235)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 3:03 pm
I would not want to eat plastic, but one should not forget that many 'plastics' are used to substitute human body parts namely heart pace makers, silicon inlays and articifial joints. And don't you have plastics in your mouth implanted by your local dentist ?

Kit B (276)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 3:38 pm

Yep, we have plastic in our mouth from dental work, and plastic in our bodies from various medical surgeries. That does not mean that should continue to discard our trash in ways that kill fish and birds, make the oceans and inland waterways toxic from trash. We have shown ourselves to be lousy stewards of our environment, that is the real point in a article like this.

Twyla Sparks (208)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 8:13 pm
I try so hard not to use plastic at all, but if I have it I will recycle it back to the store or our local animal shelters.

S B (76)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 10:29 pm
We pollute our rivers and seas, it's only to be expected

Inge Bjorkman (202)
Tuesday July 30, 2013, 11:27 pm
Eat no fish, let them live they are so cute.

Love and Understanding

DaleLovesOttawa O (198)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:00 am
Modern society has become a disposable society, a lot of fish have problems with plastic. Plastic creates problems for other wildlife and some animals and birds get the 'six pack plastic' (used to hold soft drinks, beer and other drinks together) stuck around their necks which can strangle them at the local landfills. Anyone throwing these things out should use scissors to cut each loop, problem solved at least for the necks of wild animals. What that stuff does to the soil is another question.

It would help if we cleaned up the environment more than we do. Of course, give Monsanto another 50 years with their seeds of destruction which by then will have totally cross contaminated organic a few more decades perhaps every plant on the planet will be then it won't be safe even to eat plants.

Kit B (276)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 5:06 am

Thanks Dale, an don't forget the seabirds that are dying from ingesting plastic.

Carmen S (611)
Wednesday July 31, 2013, 2:09 pm
thanks Kit for sharing this information

Edgar Zuim (47)
Monday August 5, 2013, 3:57 pm
Good article. Thanks.
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