Fish Are Now Eating Plastic And Here's Why – The Greater Goods Collective

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Fish Are Now Eating Plastic And Here's Why

Fish have been choosing plastic over their normal diet.

 

WHAT?! WHY?!

 

Facts and Stats:

  • 73% of deep sea fish have ingested plastic
  • Microplastics never dissolve or disappear
  • Plastic debris in the ocean have been doubling each year
  • Nearly 100% of Australian seabirds have ingested microplastics
  • It takes only one week for plastic to grow small amounts of algae

 

When we see rubbish in the water we assume that fish will be smart enough not to eat it, it's plastic right?

That wouldn't taste good for them and surely they'd spit it out?

 

Wrong.

 

A study found that fish were instinctively choosing toxic harmful plastic over their regular diet of natural and harmless algae. 

 

Something seems fishy.

 

Scientists revealed plastic that had been in the ocean long enough actually started to grow small amounts of algae and create its own micro-ecosystem!

 

Why is this bad?

 

The fish swim along and innocently choose these small bits of plastic covered in algae as they are unable to differentiate between them.

 

For them there's two options: small microscopic algae or one massive lump of algae.

The decision is easy as their senses automatically choose the seemingly more nutritious meal.

 

What the fish don’t realise at the time is that this decision could cost them their life;

 

  1. They cannot break down plastic
  2. The plastic begins to leach chemicals such as BPA (What's BPA?) into their tissues
  3. These chemicals can change and affect fishes reproductive systems
  4. If the fish consumes a lot of plastic, it can ultimately cause death by suffocation and indigestion

 

Image source: thatoregonlife.com

 

Who is affected:

 

Sorry to say, but this definitely affects you.

 

It affects everyone as we're all in the food chain.

Anything that affects the little guys down the bottom indirectly affects us tertiary (top) consumers.

 

Image source: nationalgeographic.org

 

Three main reasons why this indirectly affects us:

  1. Less fish for us to eat as they slowly die off
  2. Accumulates plastic and toxins in their tissues which we then consume
  3. Having a dysfunctional ocean will lead to a decline in oxygen for us humans

  

Where it's happening:

Everywhere!

There is no region or place where this isn't occurring, as once again, we're all connected.

 

Plastic travels with ocean currents, and as you can see on the map below, all of our ocean currents are connected.

 

Australia receives rubbish from Indonesia as it travels down the eastern side of the continent, and is then swept down to Antarctica and taken back up to South America.

 

So basically, one small piece of plastic can travel all the way from Indonesia to South America just via currents.

 

Image source: nationalgeographic.org

  

Why it's happening:

 

Over time, microplastics and plastics have been entering our waterways and breaking down into smaller pieces ever since.

As they spend their time drifting through the ocean, if they are not picked up and taken out, they form quite a nice habitat for algae to grow on.

They are strong, solid and provide a lifetime worth of safe housing for it.

 

I have witnessed an old ice-cream lid that occupied its very own small ecosystem. It had algae, barnacles and small crabs, when I watched it from underneath I noticed that it even had juvenile fish using it as protection.

 

Image source: nationalgeographic.org

 

How long has this been happening?

According to the UN, microplastics in the ocean have been occurring for 50 years, originating from microbeads in cosmetic and health care products.

However, it's only relatively recent that scientists have discovered that fish are actively seeking out plastic over algae, prior, it was believed to have just been a common mistake.

 

How you can help:

  • Pick up any pieces of plastic you see in the environment and place in a bin
  • No plastic is too small to pick up, the smaller parts are the ones more likely to be consumed.
  • Try to use less single-use plastic and dispose responsibly
  • Share your new knowledge!
  • Tell us how you liked this blog below! Did you learn something? Do you want to know more?
  • Give us feedback so we can learn what topics you want to know about!

 

Some relevant articles:

https://royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/full/10.1098/rspb.2017.1000

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/news/2017/08/ocean-life-eats-plastic-larvaceans-anchovy-environment/

 

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