STATES CHRONICLE – A recent study found that fish have a growing appetite for the plastic in the sea just like teenagers tend to eat more fast-food than grown-ups. But the bad news is that polystyrene is not as healthy as natural food and can lead to serious developmental issues.
A group of Swedish researchers found that fish which gorge on tiny plastics in their environment are tinier, less agile and more likely to be caught by their predators. The team believes that the phenomenon should be stopped by banning plastic microbeads in many personal care products.
According to a previous research, about 8 million tons of plastic reach the ocean every year. Strong ocean gyres and chemical degradation turn larger bits of plastic into small particles also known as micro-plastics.
Past studies have warned against the dangers of such plastics for the marine life. Many fish ingest them and can get poisoned because of the toxic chemicals in the plastics.
But the team of Swedish researchers wanted to know how bad the situation really is. So they experimented with perch larva exposed to different levels of plastic pollution. The team found that if they lacked plastics, nearly 96 percent hatched.
If the larvae were exposed to high amounts micro-plastics, just slightly over 80 percent managed to hatch. Plus, this group of fish was smaller, more stupid, and less agile than their peers living in cleaner environments.
When researchers put the fish in an environment with predators, half of those who led a healthy life survived for a whole day. The whole group which stuffed itself with plastics was wiped out over a single day.
But the most interesting finding of the study is that fish apparently picked intentionally plastic over healthy food. Researchers said that young perch which had zooplankton at their disposal preferred eating microplastics.
The research team thinks that the chemicals in the plastics lure fish into eating the unhealthy materials. One of the researchers noted that the tiny fish must be tricked into believing that plastics are a source of high-energy food.
Prof. Oona Lonnstedt, lead author of the study and researcher with Uppsala University in Sweden, concluded that plastics are for fish just as as unhealthy junk food is for teenagers.
“[…] they are just stuffing themselves,”
Prof. Lonnstedt said about the small animals.
The study was published this week in the journal Science.