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Ordered Fish Recently? There’s a One-in-Four Chance It Contained Plastic or Fibers

Dale Trockel/UC Davis

New research shows that a quarter of the fish sampled from markets in both California and Indonesia contained human-made debris.

The University of California, Davis, and Indonesia’s Hasanuddin University, teamed together for a research study that yields some unappetizing results after being published in the Scientific Report journal this week.

Scientists found plastics in more than 28 percent of the fish bought from Indonesian markets, resulting in six of the 11 fish species tested. Synthetic fiber debris were found in 25 percent of tested Californian marine life, such as Pacific anchovies, chinook salmon, striped bass, and oysters. Eight of the 12 species from California examined held fibrous material.

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Image via Dale Trockel/UC Davis

The report is one of the first to directly link human-made debris to the fish that sits on consumer plates and in markets for consumption. The most surprising part of the study, however, wasn’t in the amount of debris in each sample, but the type from the specific locations.

The study postulates that this is due in large part to the United States’ advanced plastic recycling system which keeps plastics out of the water, but points to the 200 wastewater treatment plants in California that dump sewage, holding synthetic fibers, into the Pacific Ocean.

However, in Indonesia, “when you walk down the beach, you can be up to your knees in plastic,” said Susan Williams, co-author of the study and UCD professor. “We knew fish ingest plastic, but we wanted to see if it was getting to consumers’ plates.”

Scientists are still studying whether the chemicals in plastic can transfer into the meat and mostly suggest sticking to fish filets for consumption, as these two types of debris are only truly ingested by eating the whole fish, stomach and all.

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Ordered Fish Recently? There’s a One-in-Four Chance It Contained Plastic or Fibers