Update on Fish Ingestion Study - Sept. 2009

Summary:

The 2008 North Pacific Gyre Expedition aboard the ORV Alguita discovered the widespread ingestion of plastic particles by fish that forage on plankton at night on the ocean surface. In our trawls a total of 660 fish, representing 6 species, were captured for future study. A surprising 35 percent of these fish had ingested micro-plastic particles, the record holder having 83 fragments (see below).

In any field of study, an observation leads to more questions. Do the micro plastic particles contain persistent organic pollutants (POPs), and do these pollutants migrate into the tissues and organs of the fish that ingest them? Do buoyant micro plastic particles ingested by a small deep sea fish negatively impact its ability to return below? Do the micro plastic particles cause blockages in the digestive system or create a false sense of satiation for the fish?

We are near completion of a research paper to submit for publication in 2009, which will describe our observations from the North Pacific Gyre. (2011 UPDATE: See finished paper here >>)

Data Snapshot:

Total Fish Sampled = 670
(46% Immature)

FISH SPECIES (6):

Astronesthes indopacifica
Cololabis saira
Hygophum reinhardii
Loweina interrupa
Myctophum aurolanternatum
Symbolophorus californiensis
COUNT:

6
52
45
28
462
77
% WITH INGESTED PLASTIC:

16
17
20
7
37
55

Findings Preview:

Percentage of fish with plastic in their stomachs: 35
Average number of plastic pieces found per fish: 2
Most common piece of plastic found in stomachs: 1mm - 2.2mm white fragments
Total number of plastic fragments found in sampled fish: 1,298 pieces

*** This research will be peer reviewed later this year and the full publication should be available early 2010.




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