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Baby fish are hooked on plastic junk food

Posted by Alice Hunter - 3rd June 2016

Today brought yet more evidence that putting plastic in the ocean is probably not the best idea humankind has ever had.

Scientists from Uppsala University in Sweden have discovered that fish larvae born in microplastic-laden waters were “smaller, slower, and more stupid” than those that hatched in clean waters. And worryingly, 15% fewer of them were born in the first place.

The research, published in the prestigious Science magazine, found that even though the young fish had access to nutritious zooplankton (yum!), they ate the plastic instead. And they didn’t just eat it, they wolfed it down.

“This is the first time an animal has been found to preferentially feed on plastic particles and is cause for concern”, said Prof Peter Eklöv, co-author of the study.

Microplastics in the ocean are a massive problem, with a paper published last year estimating that up to 12.7 million tonnes of plastic waste enters the ocean, every year (the equivalent of a garbage truck load, every minute). A lot of this waste comes from larger items of plastic, like drinks bottles and food containers, which slowly break down over time in the sea, eventually becoming microplastics that can be eaten by plankton, fish, and even mammals like whales.

But some plastics are already tiny when they enter our seas. And given that coastal areas are where most marine life is found, these “primary” microplastics are a major cause for concern.

Microbeads, found in personal care products like face wash, toothpaste, and even shaving foam and deodorant, are one such primary microplastic. And when it comes to microbeads, the authors of this latest research were clear: “We need to ban the products that have micro-beads in them,” said the study’s lead author Dr Oona Lonnstedt.

We’re campaigning with the Environmental Investigation Agency, Fauna & Flora International, and the Marine Conservation Society to get microbeads off our shelves and out of our ocean.

Next Wednesday 8th June is World Oceans Day, a day of the year when #OceanLovers everywhere come together to celebrate all things fishy (and turtley and whaley and… you get the idea). This year, we’ll be marking the occasion by handing in our microbeads petition to Number 10. Already, an amazing 300,000 of you have signed it, but we’d love a few more!

So if you’ve not already, please sign the petition, and share it with your friends.

Want to know more about the problem with microbeads? This nifty little video from our friends the EIA explains it all:

Article Tagged as: Featured, Oceans, microplastics