Occurrence and amount of microplastic ingested by fishes in watersheds of the Gulf of Mexico

Ingestion of microplastics by fishes could be an emerging environmental crisis because of the proliferation of plastic pollution in aquatic environments. Microplastics in marine ecosystems are well documented, however only one study has reported percent occurrence of microplastics in freshwater fishes. The purpose of this study was to quantify the occurrences and types of microplastics ingested by fishes within several freshwater drainages of the Gulf of Mexico and an estuary of the Gulf of Mexico. Among 535 fishes examined in this study, 8% of the freshwater fishes and 10% of the marine fishes had microplastics in their gut tract. Percentage occurrence of microplastics ingested by fishes in non-urbanized streams (5%) was less than that of one of the urbanized streams (Neches River; 29%). Percent occurrence of microplastics by habitat (i.e., benthic, pelagic) and trophic guilds (herbivore/omnivore, invertivore, carnivore) were similar. Low but widespread occurrences among drainages, habitat guilds, and trophic guilds indicate proliferation of plastic pollution within watersheds of the Gulf of Mexico, but consequences to fish health are unknown at this time.

Melissa B. Phillips, Timothy H. Bonner, Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 100, Issue 1, Pages 264–269, 15 November 2015

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