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Earth Medicine Science

73 Percent of Fish In the Northwestern Atlantic Have Microplastics In Their Guts 88

According to a new study published today in the journal Frontiers in Marine Science, microplastics have been found in the stomachs of nearly three out of every four mesopelagic fish caught in the Northwest Atlantic. "These findings are worrying, as the affected fish could spread microplastics throughout the ocean," reports Phys.Org. "The fish are also prey for fish eaten by humans, meaning that microplastics could indirectly contaminate our food supply through the transfer of associated microplastic toxins." From the report: Microplastics are small plastic fragments that have accumulated in the marine environment following decades of pollution. These fragments can cause significant issues for marine organisms that ingest them, including inflammation, reduced feeding and weight-loss. Microplastic contamination may also spread from organism to organism when prey is eaten by predators. Since the fragments can bind to chemical pollutants, these associated toxins could accumulate in predator species. Mesopelagic fish serve as a food source for a large variety of marine animals, including tuna, swordfish, dolphins, seals and sea birds. Typically living at depths of 200-1,000 meters, these fish swim to the surface at night to feed then return to deeper waters during the day.

The researchers caught mesopelagic fish at varying depths, then examined their stomachs for microplastics back in the lab. They used a specialized air filter so as not to introduce airborne plastic fibers from the lab environment. The team found a wide array of microplastics in the fish stomachs -- with a whopping 73% of the fish having ingested the pollutants.
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73 Percent of Fish In the Northwestern Atlantic Have Microplastics In Their Guts

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  • by Anonymous Coward

    And what percentage have grit in their guts? Or sand in their guts? Or bits of coral in their guts?

    I can see where you're heading with this, but you haven't established anything special about microplastics in the food chain, vs other grit in the food chain. There's just nothing special about one class of inert crap, vs any other class of inert crap.

  • I'm not an "apologist" for polluters, it seems the oceans have become quite the dump for plastic waste, and it's a shame.

    However...
    Do these microplastics affect the fish's health and / or significantly impact their lifespan? If not then is there some other reason to be concerned?

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Even if you don't care about the fish, eating fish which are contaminated with micro-plastics also affects human health.

      • "eating fish which are contaminated with micro-plastics"

        Eating fish gut isn't a common event for me. Now, fish meal is a problem, but so far as I know I don't get that in my diet either.

        Do I now avoid buying fish based food for my dog? Maybe not. He's a dog.

    • Did you read the summary? Not only do the plastics bind to chemical pollutants, the stomachs or the fish get full of plastic leading to reduced feeding. Both those things will lead to lower lifespans and likely, reduced reproduction rates. When you consider bio accumulation as you work up the food chain, it just makes life even harder for animals like tuna and dolphins.

      Over long time scales, this will work itself out, but who knows how long that will take and how species will be impacted by the time they ev

    • by hey! ( 33014 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @11:09AM (#56141804) Homepage Journal

      Do these microplastics affect the fish's health and / or significantly impact their lifespan? If not then is there some other reason to be concerned?

      Well, the problem is with science itself. Or rather with the way science is covered in the media [youtube.com]. The media wants answers, but the first step in science is finding good questions. You can't answer a question like that until you know the phenomenon exists, but people want to jump straight to what it means.

      If there were one thing I wish the educational system instilled in people, it would be the capacity of being concerned without necessarily being alarmed. People come out with basically two easy options to fall back on: alarmism and denialism.

  • Bioaccumulation (Score:2, Interesting)

    by mentil ( 1748130 )

    Good thing I don't eat the stomachs of fish. Now if their meat were contaminated with microplastics, then I might worry about it accumulating in my body. Some quick research [plattsburgh.edu] suggests that microplastics bioaccumulate, as implied by the summary. What really irks me is that 'farm-raised' fish, which should theoretically be free of bioaccumulation problems present in the wild, are fed cut-up wild-caught fish, so the pollutants get fed to them anyway. Where's my grass-fed Kobe fish?!

    • The problem seem to be that those microplastic bullet are by nature accumulating some chemicals on their surface you might not want to end in fish while floating in water (there were a few article last month about that), then releasing in while in the stomach of the fish. The problem is not per see the microplastic bullet, but those "rider" chemicals...
      • by PPH ( 736903 )

        But if these chemicals bind to plastics and these plastics stay in fishes' guts, that's a good thing*. It's less chemicals that pass into their bloodstream and muscles, which we do eat.

        *Well of course not having the chemicals in the water in the first place would be better.

        • The bind to plastic while in the free ocean like a little sponge.. The digestive system of an animal is designed to pull stuff apart and absorb it.

          • by PPH ( 736903 )

            The digestive system of an animal is designed to pull stuff apart and absorb it.

            Faster than they'd absorb it straight out of the water or when consumed with their regular food? I'd think that the binding energy of toxins to plastic would need to be overcome. And that would reduce concentrations available in the digestive tract.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Stop eating plastic you dumb fish

  • How much? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by cirby ( 2599 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @07:59AM (#56141138)

    They examined the stomach contents of fish. Okay.

    They found "microplastics" in about three out of four fish. Okay.

    How much? It couldn't be a lot, because they were worried about contaminating the samples with microplastics from the air itself.

    That means that the amounts they were looking for were literally microscopic, and very, very low in volume.

    It's more a testament to the ability to find incredibly small amounts of the stuff than any indication that the amount they found was large.

    This is a lot like the "we found Fukushima radiation in the ocean off the US coast" story - where the amount of cesium was unimaginably small - three ATOMS of the stuff per cubic meter...

    • Re:How much? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by thegarbz ( 1787294 ) on Saturday February 17, 2018 @01:22PM (#56142806)

      This is a lot like the "we found Fukushima radiation in the ocean off the US coast" story - where the amount of cesium was unimaginably small - three ATOMS of the stuff per cubic meter...

      Radiation is a naturally occurring emission that is all around us, which is why the Fukushima thing is absurd.
      On the other hand plastics are not, and they are something we have been using on this earth for a very short time period and yet are not part of the food cycle. Comparing the two is silly.

      • by cirby ( 2599 )

        Comparing the stories is very useful, though - the breathless "we found X in Y!" idea is pretty much the same - and is generally harmless in both cases. No, plastics aren't a mysterious thing that's going to kill us, or make us sick, or anything like that. So far, alarmism of this type tends to end up being The Boy Who Cried Wolf, all over again.

        • the breathless "we found X in Y!" idea is pretty much the same

          One is naturally occurring. The other is not. Just because they are harmless in their current concentrations doesn't mean that this is something to worry about and attempt to solve.

          Radiation: It existed before, it exists now, no conclusions can be drawn for the future.
          Plastic: There was none, now there is some in the food cycles, something very worth watching going forward and even worth starting to do something about NOW.

          Or would you prefer for every case of the abnormal to require people to get sick or di

  • i am pure veg
  • By George Carlin:
    The air and the water will recover, the earth will be renewed, and if it’s true that plastic is not degradable well, the planet will simply incorporate plastic into a new paradigm: the earth plus plastic.
    The earth doesn’t share our prejudice towards plastic. Plastic came out of the earth. The earth probably sees plastic as just another one of its children. Could be the only reason the earth allows us to be spawned from it in the first place: it wanted plastic for itself. Didn
  • Right now, fish that are not farmed are advertised as "wild caught" because, you know, that sounds better. The term makes us think of pristine Alaskan streams. If farmed fish raised in filtered water canbe advertised as "plastic free," this will flip.

  • I predict this will be the response after reading followup studies on ocean health.
  • Bullshit! (Score:2, Interesting)

    by DatbeDank ( 4580343 )

    Father owns a fishing business in a classic New England fishing town.

    The size of his catch each year since 1980 has been the same size. The average fish size (which he keeps track of) has a plus/minus deviation of about a quarter kilo each year. That's 150 tons each haul.

    More alarmist bullshite, just like the Mercury claims to try and clamp down on an otherwise very healthy blue collar trade.

    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      by cats-paw ( 34890 )

      depends on which species your talking about doesn't it?

      Here's cod

      https://www.st.nmfs.noaa.gov/p... [noaa.gov]

      and you're really gonna sit there and tell me that bluefin tuna catches are the same size since 1980. now that's some bullshit.

      fishing is anything but a healthy trade, it's freaking dangerous and overfishing is a well-documented problem.

  • This is not new info. Plastics pass through wastewater treatment plants and plastic left on beaches or or bays get into the oceans. Fish see this waste as food and eat it.

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