Fish in the UK are Eating Plastic

Written by on January 22, 2013 in Fish, Marine Life
Red gurnard (Aspitrigla cuculus).

Red gurnard (Aspitrigla cuculus)-one of the species examined in the study. Photo credit: photo credit: Nemo’s great uncle via photopin cc

Scientists have found plastic in the digestive systems of fish living in the English Channel.

The researchers, from Plymouth University and the UK Marine Biological Association, examined 504 fish and found tiny fragments of plastic (called microplastics) in more than a third of them.

“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,” said Professor Richard Thompson.

“Our recent research has shown that such fragments are also being ingested by fish. Laboratory studies on mussels have shown that some organisms can retain plastic after ingestion, hence microplastic debris could also accumulate in natural populations.”

This could create many other problems for fish. For example, other pollutants could latch on to the plastic, exposing the fish to new dangers. It could also create blockages in their digestive systems or could result in a false sense of being full.

The plastic in these fish came from many different sources. Some come from exfoliators like face and body scrubs, while others were broken down from much larger objects.

“We don’t need to have plastic debris in the sea,” said Thompson. “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 recognize 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,” he added.

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Copyright © 2013 by Marine Science Today, a publication of Marine Science Today LLC.

About the Author

About the Author: Emily Tripp is the Publisher and Editor of She holds marine science and biology degrees from the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science and a Master of Advanced Studies degree in Marine Biodiversity and Conservation from Scripps Institution of Oceanography. When she's not writing about marine science, she's probably running around outside or playing with her dog. .


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