The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
25% of Fish Sold at Markets Contain Plastic or Man-Made Debris
Roughly a quarter of the fish sampled from fish markets in California and Indonesia contained man-made debris—plastic or fibrous material—in their guts, according to a study from the University of California, Davis and Hasanuddin University in Indonesia.
UC Davis researchers found plastic and fibrous debris in 25 percent of the fish sold in Indonesian and California markets. Photo credit: Dale Trockel
The study, published last week in the journal Scientific Reports, is one of the first to directly link plastic and man-made debris to the fish on consumers’ dinner plates.
“It’s interesting that there isn’t a big difference in the amount of debris in the fish from each location, but in the type—plastic or fiber,” said lead author Chelsea Rochman, a David H. Smith postdoctoral fellow in the Aquatic Health Program at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine. “We think the type of debris in the fish is driven by differences in local waste management.”
"Waiter, There’s Some Plastic in My Fish"
The researchers sampled 76 fish from markets in Makassar, Indonesia and 64 from Half Moon Bay and Princeton in California. All of the fragments recovered from fish in Indonesia were plastic. In contrast, 80 percent of the debris found in California fish was fibers, whereas not a single strand of fiber was found in Indonesian fish.
Indonesia has little in the way of landfills, waste collection or recycling and large amounts of plastic are tossed onto the beaches and into the ocean. The problem is made worse by a lack of purified drinking water that forces its residents to drink bottled water.
“Indonesia has some of the highest marine life richness and biodiversity on Earth and its coastal regions—mangroves, coral reefs and their beaches—are just awash in debris,” said co-author Susan Williams, a professor with the UC Davis Bodega Marine Laboratory who has worked on projects in Indonesia for the past several years. “You have the best and the worst situation right in front of you in Indonesia.”
Meanwhile, the U.S. has highly advanced systems for collecting and recycling plastics. However, most Californians wash their clothing in washing machines, the water from which empties into more than 200 wastewater treatment plants offshore California. The authors theorize that fibers remaining in sewage effluent from washing machines were ingested by fish sampled in the state.
“To mitigate the issue in each location, it helps to think about local sources and differences in waste management strategies,” Rochman said.
It Takes Guts
The scientists emphasize that the plastic and fibers are found in the fishes’ guts. That means humans are likely to ingest the debris only if the fish is eaten whole, as it is in Indonesia or such as with sardines and anchovies, rather than filleted. However, researchers are still studying whether chemicals in plastic can transfer into the meat.
The study was funded by a UC Davis Outreach and International Program SEED Grant, the National Science Foundation’s Graduate K-12 and IGERT programs and the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences’ Superfund Research Program.
YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The Centers for Disease Control has emphasized that washing hands with soap and water is one of the most effective measures we can take in preventing the spread of COVID-19. However, millions of Americans in some of the most vulnerable communities face the prospect of having their water shut off during the lockdowns, according to The Guardian.
Aerial photos of the Sierra Nevada — the long mountain range stretching down the spine of California — showed rust-colored swathes following the state's record-breaking five-year drought that ended in 2016. The 100 million dead trees were one of the most visible examples of the ecological toll the drought had wrought.
Now, a few years later, we're starting to learn about how smaller, less noticeable species were affected.
Natthawat / Moment / Getty Images
Disinfectants and cleaners claiming to sanitize against the novel coronavirus have started to flood the market, raising concerns for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which threatened legal recourse against retailers selling unregistered products, according to The New York Times.
The global coronavirus pandemic has thrown our daily routine into disarray. Billions are housebound, social contact is off-limits and an invisible virus makes up look at the outside world with suspicion. No surprise, then, that sustainability and the climate movement aren't exactly a priority for many these days.
By Molly Matthews Multedo
Livestock farming contributes to global warming, so eating less meat can be better for the climate.