Plastic-eating fish raise concerns about food toxicity

Plastic-eating fish raise concerns about food toxicity

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Here's a riddle researchers are trying to answer. If fish eat plastic, and we eat the fish, are we consuming toxic chemicals?

It's a growing concern, especially when 60-percent of Opah analyzed, had plastic in its stomach.

Plastic seen floating at sea is turning up in fish at the deepest levels.

UH Oceanography Department Professor Jeffrey Drazen showed us all of the debris found in single specimens, saying "Each panel represents the pieces found in an individual fish. So these are the pieces found in a landset fish. These are in an Opah."

Turns out Opah have the heartiest appetite for plastic. Drazen theorizes they might mistake plastic pieces for prey that shimmer underwater, saying "I wonder if the plastics don't get this film of bacteria and light up and just trick the predators."

A new UC Davis study magnifies concerns about the hazards of ingesting marine debris. "The most interesting thing these recent studies show is these plastics are sponges" explains Drazen. "It's not just worrying about eating the plastic and blocking the stomach. They're vectors and they're adding contaminants to fishes in the ocean."

The fish studied suffered liver damage due to ingestion of man-made chemicals, like PCB's. It's still too early to know the long term effects.

Drazen told us, "We have no idea if PCB's are high in fish in Hawaii just yet. I think something we should be looking for is increase in these contaminants over time. Things we like to eat, we should start monitoring these things a little more closely."

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