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Researchers find Hawaii fish consuming plastic, marine debris

By Justin Fujioka
Published On: Jul 24 2013 05:58:00 PM HST

Scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa found that some Hawaii fish are consuming a large amount of plastic and other marine debris.

HONOLULU -

If you eat fish, you may be surprised what some fish eat.

Scientists at the University of Hawaii at Manoa have found plastic and other marine debris in the stomachs of several species.

UH Manoa graduate student Anela Choy led a team of researchers that dissected nearly 600 fish from 10 different species over the last six years.

The study was recently published in the scientific journal Marine Ecology Progress Series.

"We do not know exactly the residence time that the plastic does stay in the fish's gut, but some of the small pieces you know, it's believed that they can pass it," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration fisheries biologist Lesley Jantz. "But the larger pieces, I think it'd be very difficult to pass it and if they did try to, it could very well tear their intestinal track."

Researchers found little to no debris in some species and a lot more in others, like opah or moonfish, which usually swim in deeper water.

"Plastics and people you know, you kind of think that they're all going to float on the surface," Jantz said. "But there's a belief that they're getting biofilm on them and making them a little more dense so they float down into the water column, and so when the fishes vertically migrate there in evening, they diurnally migrate, they may be consuming them at that time."

Scientists are now looking into how long debris like this remains in fish's stomachs and if it's absorbed into their tissue. If it is, it could be very hazardous to people who eat those fish.

"The one thing that comes to mind is maybe endocrine disruption," said Jantz. "So you know, for development, reproducing, those kind of problems have been related to plastic. But that still has not been studied."

While there is a lot more research to do, there is something we can do now.

"Plastic is very useful in our society and we use it all the time," Jantz said. "But if we could just reuse a little bit you know, chances are less of it will end up in the ocean."

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