Baby fish found consuming plastic waste, study finds

A new study has found pelagic fish species and larval fish eating plastic just days after being born.


NSFW    HONOLULU — A new study led by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center has found prey-size plastics present in larval fish nurseries in surface slicks off the west coast of the island of Hawaii.

According to a news release from the NOAA, surface slicks are created when waves converge near coastlines and form ribbons of smooth water. These contain large amounts of plankton for larval fish that live in the surface slicks.

The study, published in the journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, found seven times more plastic present in the surface slicks than larval fish.

Researchers also found that plastics were 126 times more concentrated in the slicks than surface water off the coast of the same island.

Scientists involved in the study dissected hundreds of larval fish from the surface slicks and found that pelagic fish species, including swordfish and mahi-mahi, and larval fish, such as triggerfish, all contained tiny pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

This is the first time these fish species have been found consuming plastic just days after being spawned.

Jamison Gove, a researcher from the NOAA who was involved with the study, stated in the agency's news release that it is alarming that larval fish are surrounded by plastic waste and are consuming plastic at such a vulnerable stage in their life.

Scientists are unsure of the impact of plastic ingestion on larval fish. The study says that plastic could affect their development or even reduce their rate of survival.

Previous studies had found that plastic ingestion in adult fish causes gut blockage, malnutrition and accumulation of plastic toxins.
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