Quarter of fish sold worldwide consume man-made material

A recent study in California and Indonesia show that a quarter of fish sold in markets ingest man-made plastics or fibers

As if the majority of birds eating plastic wasn’t bad enough, a new study in Scientific Reports says that fish sold in markets around the world had plastic or fibers inside of their stomach.

The University of California, Davis, and Hasanuddin University in Indonesia conducted the study and published results this past week, showing that 25% of fish sold in markets had man-made material inside of their stomach. It is the first study of its kind to show just how garbage tossed into the water finds its way back onto consumer’s tables.

Interestingly enough, two different types of waste were found. Indonesia’s markets had fish that had directly consumed plastic, whereas in California the culprit was fibers found in washing detergent.

“It’s interesting that there isn’t a big difference in the amount of debris in the fish from each location, but in the type, plastic or fiber,” said Chelsea Rochman. The lead author of the study, Rochman is studying at the UC Davis School of Veterinary Medicine, and is hopeful that the study will contribute to better waste management systems.

“We think the type of debris in the fish is driven by differences in local waste management,” she said. “To mitigate the issue in each location, it helps to think about local sources and differences in waste management strategies.”

The study had researchers sampled 74 fish markets in Indonesia and 64 in California. Plastic was in a surprising amount of fish in Indonesia, whereas 80% of fish from California contained any given amount of fibers.

Maritime Executive reports that consumers will only ingest plastic or fibers if the fish is consumed as whole. In Indonesia this is common practice. Californians on the other hand would only consume fibers if they ate sardines or anchovies.


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