From: Alex Peel, Planet Earth Online
Published January 21, 2013 06:13 AM

Why are British Fish Eating Plastics?

Scientists have found tiny fragments of plastic in the digestive systems of fish pulled from the English Channel. 

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The discovery, by a team from Plymouth University and the UK Marine Biological Association, highlights the growing problem of plastic contamination of marine environments.

Of 504 fish examined, more than a third was found to contain small pieces of plastic less than one millimetre in size, referred to by scientists as microplastics.

'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,' says Professor Richard Thompson.

'Our recent reseach 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, say researchers, could carry serious physical consequences for fish, creating blockages in their digestive systems or giving them a false sense of being full.

It could also make it easier for pollutants in surrounding waters to make their way into organisms, as chemicals latch on to the plastic fragments.

Tern with small fish photo via Shutterstock.

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