According to the website Environmental Pollution (June 2017), a study took place between April and June 2016 in the western English Channel which was designed to assess the occurrence of microplastic ingestion in wild fish larvae.
The study provided baseline ecological data showing a correlation between waterborne microplastics and the incidence of ingestion in fish larvae.
This is an important finding because of the links between microplastics and other organic pollutants that can enter the food chain.
Microplastics have been documented in marine environments worldwide where they pose a potential risk to living organisms.
Coastal shelf seas are rich in productivity but also experience high levels of microplastic pollution. In these habitats fish have an important ecological and economic role but their larvae are vulnerable to pollution, environmental stress and predation.
The study took fish larvae and water samples across three sites – at 10, 19 and 35 km from the shore – in the western English Channel from April to June 2016.
Key findings were:
2.9% of fish larvae had ingested microplastics, of which 66% were blue fibres; ingested microfibers closely resembled those identified within water samples.
Further away from the coast larval fish density increased significantly while waterborne microplastic concentrations and incidence of ingestion decreased.
Other research has shown that we are experiencing large quantities of plastic waste in all our aquatic systems. The Thames has been particularly effected, partly because so many people live along its banks and partly because the current sewer system is not able to cope.
Many animals have been shown to ingest plastic and microplastics can be eaten by almost anything. Plastics can leach dangerous chemicals into whatever has eaten them thereby entering the food chain. This could have important implications for the fishing industry on the Thames.