The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Crucial Ocean Feeding Ground for Baby Fish Contains 7x More Plastic Than Fish
A team of researchers led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration didn't intend to study plastic pollution when they towed a tiny mesh net through the waters off Hawaii's West Coast. Instead, they wanted to learn more about the habits of larval fish.
They thought that the developing fish would hang out in surface slicks, places where wind and waves push ocean surface waters together, because those slicks would also gather the plankton the fish rely on, Vice explained. They were right, but they found that the slicks also gathered something else.
Overall, the researchers found that plastics in the slicks outnumbered fish by seven to one.
The results, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences Monday, paint a troubling picture. The researchers found there were 12 times more plastic in the slicks than was recently recorded in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser explained. The plastics were also 126 times more dense in the slicks than they were in the surrounding waters, and the majority were less than a millimeter, what the study referred to as "prey size."
"It's these tiny pieces that are being eaten by baby fish. It's these tiny pieces that we can't even see with our naked eyes that are the problem here," Whitney told the Star-Advertiser.
The researchers also turned up evidence that the fish are eating the plastic. Of more than 600 fish dissected, 48, or 8.6 percent, had ingested plastic. The plastic was found in seven of eight fish families studied, including important commercial species like swordfish and mahi-mahi. It was also found in flying fish, which are an important part of the marine food web.
"The fact that larval fish are surrounded by and ingesting non-nutritious plastics, at their most vulnerable life stage, is certainly cause for alarm," study co-leader and NOAA oceanographer Jamison Gove told the Star-Advertiser.
It isn't known exactly how plastic will impact the developing fish, but the researchers predicted it could reduce their chances of survival and add to the threats they already face from overfishing, habitat loss and the climate crisis.
"If they're eating plastics at their first critical meal, they're filling their bellies with plastics instead of plankton," Whitney told HuffPost.
Since adult whales and seabirds have starved to death after ingesting plastics, this is cause for concern.
- Plastic Pollution Harms Ocean Bacteria That Produce 10 Percent of ... ›
- Dead Baby Turtle Found With 104 Pieces of Plastic in Stomach ... ›
- 100% of Sea Turtles in Global Study Found With Plastics in Their ... ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
The world awakened to the hole in the ozone layer in 1985, which scientists attributed it to ozone-depleting substances. Two years later, in Montreal, the world agreed to ban the halogen compounds causing the massive hole over Antarctica. Research now shows that those chemicals didn't just cut a hole in the ozone layer, they also warmed up the Arctic.
Formosa Plant May Still Be Releasing Plastic Pollution in Texas After $50M Settlement, Activists Find
On the afternoon of Jan. 15, activist Diane Wilson kicked off a San Antonio Estuary Waterkeeper meeting on the side of the road across from a Formosa plastics manufacturing plant in Point Comfort, Texas.
After Wilson and the waterkeeper successfully sued Formosa in 2017, the company agreed to no longer release even one of the tiny plastic pellets known as nurdles into the region's waterways. The group of volunteers had assembled that day to check whether the plant was still discharging these raw materials of plastics manufacturing.
Malaysia Sends Plastic Waste Back to 13 Wealthy Countries, Says It Won’t Be 'the Rubbish Dump of the World'
The Southeast Asian country Malaysia has sent 150 shipping containers packed with plastic waste back to 13 wealthy countries, putting the world on notice that it will not be the world's garbage dump, as CNN reported. The countries receiving their trash back include the United States, the United Kingdom, France and Canada.