Just three years ago, it was predicted that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish by 2050. But it seems the prediction has some true a little (read: a lot) sooner than expected.
A new study published in the journal PNAS, has found that in the waters off Hawaii, plastics currently outnumber fish seven to one.
The research studied areas called “slicks”, which are “visible bands on the sea surface distinguished by reduced surface roughness”. Slicks are full of plankton and other nutrients, making them an oasis of food for baby fish.
While researchers originally set off to survey the amount of plankton in the area, their attention was diverted by the shocking abundance of plastic in their nets. To make matters worse, they found that the slicks off of Hawaii contained more plastic than in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch – eight times more, to be exact.
Being outnumbered by plastics, baby fish are inevitably ingesting them too. Plastics were found inside swordfish, mahi-mahi, triggerfish, and flying fish.
Dr Gareth Williams of Bangor University, a researcher in the study said, "We don't have the data to say whether or not this has a negative effect on fish populations, but the fact that they're eating these non-nutritious particles at the point when eating is so critical for their survival in those first few days, it can only be a bad thing."
“Biodiversity and fisheries production are currently threatened by a variety of human-induced stressors such as climate change, habitat loss, and overfishing. Unfortunately, our research suggests we can likely now add plastic ingestion by larval fish to that list of threats.”
While microplastics entering the food-chain is hazardous to marine life, it is also a cause for concern for human wellbeing. In fact, according to a study from the World Wildlife Fund, humans on average are ingesting a credit card’s worth of plastic each year. Yikes.
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