Plastic In Fish

Fishmarkets in Nuku Hiva, Marquesas

Looking for plastics inside the fish that we're eating. 

My research looked inside commonly eaten fish in the South Pacific, and documented just how much plastic these fish are eating. 

This involved working with local fishermen and at community fish markets, collecting the guts (the rest of the fish was eaten or sold)

& then looking in the stomach and intestines for plastic pieces. 

The research took place across the South Pacific - French Polynesia (Marquesas, Tuamotus, Tahiti), Lord Howe Island and Henderson Island (Pitcairn group). 

Read my research publication here or read on for a summary.

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Fish

BACKGROUND

  • There are at least 693 species recorded as encountering marine debris, including birds, marine mammals, turtles, fish, and molluscs (Gall and Thompson 2015).

  • Microplastics are the most commonly found plastic debris, accounting for 92% of global marine plastics (Eriksen at al 2014).

  • Ingested plastics can introduce pollutants into the food web (Phillips and Bonner 2015).

  • Plastic has been found in many commonly eaten fish species - e.g. In Indonesia and the United States, 25-28% of fish sold at markets contained anthropogenic debris (primarily synthetic and natural fibres) (Rochman et al. 2015).

RESEARCH SUMMARY

  • My research, the first initial South Pacific survey of plastic ingestion by fish, shows about 8% of individuals had plastic in their guts, and about 25% of species.

  • These fish were of a variety of species and sizes, and fed on different types of food and in a range of locations - this is a problem as plastic seems to be widespread across species, lifestyles and habitats.

  • All the fish were from local fishermen or markets and intended for human consumption.

  • This is likely a big underestimate, and could mean that harmful pollutants are making their way into our food chain.

  • The highest levels of ingestion were in the most remote locations (Henderson Island).

My research findings were published in the Australian Journal of Maritime & Ocean Affairs, making all those hours of being elbow deep in fish guts totally worth it. 

 

Unfortunately, it seems like the world of scientific literature has become quite disconnected from non-scientists, and the communities that could potentially benefit most from the data. For me, the whole point of the research is increasing our knowledge  and ideally provide a platform for change. And I don't expect you to spend voer $100 to read it. So, here's a brief summary of my findings as well as a link to the full text of the research (it's also on OSF here).

"Ingestion of plastic by fish destined for human consumption in remote South Pacific Islands", Volume 10, Issue 2, 2018
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A video by Titouan Bernicot of Coral Gardeners showing a little of my research time in Moorea, French Polynesia.