According to a recent study, a quarter of the fish sold in markets may contain plastic and synthetic fiber, as a result of man-made pollution affecting the oceans.
The research, conducted by the University of California, Davis, in conjunction with Hasanuddin University in Indonesia, was published in the journal Scientific Reports.
Experts analyzed 64 fish sampled from fish markets in Half Moon Bay and Princeton, California, and studies were also conducted on 76 fish samples from Makassar, Indonesia. Some of the fish species that researchers included in their study were the jacksmelt, the striped bass, the lingcod and the California yellowtail (also known as rainbow runner).
Man-made debris encountered in the Indonesian samples consisted mostly in plastic, whereas 80% of the contaminants in the Californian ones were fibers. Overall, the percentage of debris was similar, but the types of pollutants were different, and researchers speculate this may be because of “differences in local waste management”.
Basically, California has an effective system for collecting and recycling plastic, but since clothes are washed using washing machines, synthetic fibers are flushed away with waste water.
Afterwards, they reach treatment plants, where the fibers aren’t completely destroyed. Eventually, they are dropped into the ocean and some are ingested by fish in the area.
On the other hand, Indonesia’s insufficient policy for collecting and recycling plastic material results in huge quantities of plastic being left on the beach, and eventually reaching the ocean.
Microbeads are another source of plastic in the environment, given the fact that these tiny synthetic balls, usually found in exfoliants and other personal care products, can’t be filtered by waste water systems. Up to 350,000 microbeads are found in just one cosmetic container, and they are not biodegradable.
Experts believe that fish that have been contaminated with man-made debris are particularly dangerous when eaten whole, because usually these garbage pieces are found in the guts.
Therefore, fish fillet seems to be more safe to consume, although researchers are now trying to determine if chemicals found in plastic may actually spread throughout the entire fish. If their theory is proven correct, this may mean tainted fish could be unfit for consumption in whichever form they are eaten.
Even Indonesian fish may pose a health risk to consumers, given the fact that almost 90% of all seafood in the U.S. is imported and half of that quantity is wild-caught, as the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration reports.
More than 100,000 tons of Indonesian fish have reached American shops in the first half of 2015, so there’s a high likelihood that many buyers have already consumed plastic-laden fish.
To combat this health crisis, environmentalists are urging state legislators to impose stricter regulations against ocean pollution.
In addition, they regularly undertake coastal cleanups meant to clear trash along the beaches. For instance, last week, around 42,000 pounds of debris were removed from 48 beaches off the Orange County coast by 6,900 volunteers.
Image Source: Skitterphoto