Man-made debris is becoming a problem to marine life and our health, as a quarter of the fish in our markets eat garbage, and plastic or fibrous material end up in their guts. It’s one of the first studies of its kind that proved a direct link between the man-made debris content in our waters and consumers’ dinners.
- Researchers sampled 64 fish from Californian markets, and 76 from Indonesia
- 80% of the pollution in the fish from California were fibers, while plastic dominated in Indonesia
- The high content of fibers in fish guts has been blamed on wastewater from washing machines
- Consumers are assured that they do not ingest the contaminants as long as they don’t eat the fish whole
Worrying statistics have been drawn earlier, where it was discovered that 5 trillion plastic microbeads make their way into bodies of water every day, and it was inevitable that it would affect the marine wildlife that we consume. Researchers recovered samples from Half Moon Bay and Princeton in California, along with others from Makassar in Indonesia.
According to the results, 25% of all the fish sold on markets are riddled with man-made debris, be it plastic of fibers that are a direct result of the pollution we cause to our own waters. However, while there wasn’t a significant difference between the amount of garbage between the two locations, there was an interesting variation in the types debris found.
In the California market, researchers from the state’s university, Davis, have uncovered that from all the 64 fish sampled, 25% of individual fish presented with anthropogenic debris and 67% of all species. Furthermore, it seemed that fibers were the most common polluting element, representing 80% of the content found in their gut.
On the other side, researchers from Hasanuddin University in Indonesia sampled a number of 76 fish from their markets, and found plastic in 28% of individual fish and in 55% of all sampled species. Plastic seemed more prevalent in the waters near Indonesia, while fibers dominated the contamination content in the United States.
It has been suggested that the high plastic pollution in the Asian nation is due to the country’s lack of proper recycling and collection of waste. Most of it ends up tossed on the beach or into the ocean, where the stunningly high diversity of marine life becomes polluted. According to Susan Williams, who co-authored the study from UC Davis, Indonesia has “the best and worst of the situation”.
In the United States, however, plastic disposal is collected by numerous wastewater treatment plants, including 200 in California. However, they theorized that fibers from washing machine wastewater still get caught within in sewage and further dropped into the ocean, even in spite of highly advanced filtering systems.
Researchers have assured that most of the polluted fish will not be ingested by humans, since the high amount of contamination is found in their guts. It will require the consumers to eat the fish whole in order to ingest the man-made debris, which is only the case for fish such as sardines and anchovies.
However, the practice is tradition in Indonesia, where the population more often ingests a fish as a whole instead of filleting it. The matter remains an issue until further research can be conducted about how much of the contamination is absorbed into the meat.
Still, these are disturbing results as it has been suggested by Williams that the plastic continues to degrade with time in the gut and the organisms soak up more of the contaminants that humans consume.
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