How Much Plastic Do Fish Ingest?


Photo: M_ WalzEriksson

Our world is becoming more and more plastic each year. From toys to packaging to gadgets and bags, it's not just that we produce more than 250 million tons each year around the world, but it's the fact that little of what we produce is ever recycled, so much of it ends up littering our planet. Specifically, the oceans have ended up becoming a giant dump for our plastic waste; some seven million tons end up in our oceans. A new study, according to The New York Times, seeks to calculate just how much of that plastic ends up in fish.In the north Pacific ocean alone between 12,000 and 24,000 tons of plastic end up in fish. This is 9 percent of fish found in the north Pacific, according to researchers at the University of California, San Diego. Keep in mind that this does not include fish that die from ingesting plastic and it doesn't include fish that pass the plastic through their systems. So in reality, the numbers are likely even higher than study calculations.

The study, published in the journal Marine Ecology Progress Series, came to this conclusion by traveling hundreds of miles throughout the north Pacific Ocean testing fish along the way.

According to The New York Times:

The research team, including the authors of the study, Peter Davison and Rebecca Asch, traveled across hundreds of miles of the North Pacific ocean gyre, collecting fish specimens, water samples and marine debris at depths ranging from the surface to thousands of feet under. Just over 9 percent of the fish caught during the expedition had small pieces of plastic in their stomachs.

These findings are undoubtedly disturbing but they only include a small piece of the plastic pie. These huge numbers only tell the story of the north Pacific though other oceans likely have similar pollution problems.

The main challenge, said Mr. Woodring of Project Kaisei, is that the infrastructure for proper waste management and recycling "simply cannot keep pace with the exponential growth of plastic in our daily lives."

Therefore, it ends up covering our planet and being ingested by a huge number of marine species, many of which die as a result.

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More on Plastic and Oceans
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch: "Out of Sight, Out of Mind"
"Recycled Island" Turns Ocean Plastic into a Paradise
PSA Shows Life in a Sea of Plastic

Tags: Fish | Oceans | Pollution