Nearly 1 in 10 fish collected in the Pacific Ocean during a recent study contained plastic debris, in what researchers call troubling evidence of the significant amount of plastic entering the food chain. The study,
conducted by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, estimates that fish in the middle depths of the northern Pacific ingest 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year. As part of the study, scientists collected about 141 fish spanning 27 species in the notorious “Pacific Garbage Patch,” an area about 1,000 miles off the California coast contaminated with high volumes of plastic. Researchers found plastic debris in the stomachs of 9.2 percent of the fish collected, although they believe the proportion of fish that consume plastic is much higher. “We can’t tell how many fish ate plastic and died, how many fish ate plastic and regurgitate it or passed it out of their intestines,” said Rebecca Asch, a Scripps researcher and one of the authors of the study published in the Marine Ecology Progress Series. Because the fish caught as part of the study, including lanternfish, are a food source for larger Pacific fish, the scientists suggest those plastic contaminants could eventually end up in seafood consumed by humans.