We investigated microplastics in the digestive tracts of 64 Japanese anchovy (Engraulis japonicus) sampled in Tokyo Bay. Plastic was detected in 49 out of 64 fish (77%), with 2.3 pieces on average and up to 15 pieces per individual. All of the plastics were identified by Fourier transform infrared spectroscopy. Most were polyethylene (52.0%) or polypropylene (43.3%). Most of the plastics were fragments (86.0%), but 7.3% were beads, some of which were microbeads, similar to those found in facial cleansers. Eighty percent of the plastics ranged in size from 150 μm to 1000 μm, smaller than the reported size range of floating microplastics on the sea surface, possibly because the subsurface foraging behavior of the anchovy reflected the different size distribution of plastics between surface waters and subsurface waters. Engraulis spp. are important food for many humans and other organisms around the world. Our observations further confirm that microplastics have infiltrated the marine ecosystem, and that humans may be exposed to them. Because microplastics retain hazardous chemicals, increase in fish chemical exposure by the ingested plastics is of concern. Such exposure should be studied and compared with that in the natural diet.
Kosuke Tanaka & Hideshige Takada, Scientific Reports 6, Article number: 34351 (2016)