A joint report by Plymouth University and the UK Marine Biological Association has revealed that a third of fish collected off the coast of Plymouth, UK were found to contain traces of plastic. The study shows that plastic contamination of marine wildlife in British waters is a growing threat to local ecosystems.
The report titled titled “Occurrence of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of pelagic and demersal fish from the English Channel” was published in Marine Pollution Bulletin. It looked at the amount of plastic found in ten species of fish living in the English Channel. Of the 504 samples dissected, 36.5% were found to have ingested plastic. Not only is this a problem for those that eat the fish, such as humans, but the research team believe that the accumulation of plastic in fish could block the animals’ digestive systems and even cause fish to stop eating.
All of the fish samples were collected 10 kilometres southwest of Plymouth, at a depth of around 55 metres. In each sample, between one to 15 pieces of plastic, including synthetic polymers, were found in the fish’s gastrointestinal tract. Of the 351 items removed from the fish, the most commonly found plastic was rayon, a synthetic fibre used in clothing and sanitary products. Other plastics included polyester, polystyrene and acrylic.
In a statement, Richard Thompson from Plymouth University said: “We have previously shown that on shorelines worldwide and on the sea bed and in the water column around the UK, these tiny fragments of plastic are widespread.”
“We don’t need to have plastic debris in the sea. These materials are inherently very recyclable, but regrettably they’ve been at the heart of our throw-away culture for the last few decades. We need to recognise the value of plastics at the end of their lives and need help from industry and manufacturers to widen the potential for every day products to be reusable and recyclable.”