Research finds fish people eat are eating plastic

Published: Jul. 24, 2013 at 9:43 PM HST|Updated: Jul. 24, 2013 at 10:59 PM HST
Email This Link
Share on Pinterest
Share on LinkedIn

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Fish, it's what's for dinner for many families in Hawaii. Unfortunately new research from the University of Hawaii, Manoa shows some fish are eating a lot of plastic.

Researchers dissected the stomachs of nearly 600 fish over the last six years and found certain species ate a lot of junk while others did not.

"These fish are eating a surprising amount junk or rubbish or plastic or man related waste," said Anela Choy, Ph.D. Student with the Department of Oceanography SOEST, University of Hawaii.

Choy was the lead researcher who studied 10 species around Hawaii. Overall plastic was found in 19 percent of the fish that were caught. She found the fish that ate the greatest amount of plastic were opah also known as moonfish.

"A lot of the plastic we found in the opah especially was white or clear in color we thought that they are maybe, possibly confusing the pieces with prey," said Choy.

It might be comforting to know that various tunas, mackerel and swordfish had very little to no debris found in their stomachs. Seven of the 10 fish studied didn't eat much plastic at all. So why do some fish eat it and others don't?

"Lancetfish and opah they tend to gravitate toward gelatinous fish to prey upon. Perhaps tuna not so much they more kind of chase their prey," said Lesley Jantz, Fishery Biologist, NOAA fisheries observer program.

So does that mean we should eat more tuna and less opah? Not necessarily but the fact is we don't know.

"More research is needed and a lot of questions need to be answered as there are with fish we like to eat especially here in Hawaii," said Choy.

"There is no scientific data that has linked any kind of contamination from plastic debris ingested by fish to the muscle tissue that is consumed by humans," said Jantz.

But that is an area researchers plan to take a bite out of soon.

If you want to read more about the research click here.

Follow Tim Sakahara:   

Copyright 2013 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.