An increasing number of studies have described the presence of microplastics (≤ 5 mm) in many different fish species, raising ecological concerns. The factors influencing the ingestion of microplastics by fish remain unclear despite their importance to a better understanding of the routes of microplastics through marine food webs. Here, we compare microplastics and planktonic organisms in surface waters and as food items of 20 Amberstripe scads (Decapterus muroadsi) captured along the coast of Rapa Nui (Easter Island) to assess the hypothesis that fish ingest microplastics resembling their natural prey. Sixteen (80%) of the scad had ingested one to five microplastics, mainly blue polyethylene fragments that were similar in colour and size to blue copepod species consumed by the same fish. These results suggest that planktivorous fish, as a consequence of their feeding behaviour as visual predators, are directly exposed to floating microplastics. This threat may be exacerbated in the clear oceanic waters of the subtropical gyres, where anthropogenic litter accumulates in great quantity. Our study highlights the menace of microplastic contamination on the integrity of fragile remote ecosystems and the urgent need for efficient plastic waste management.
Nicolas Christian Ory, Paula Sobral, Joana Lia Ferreira, Martin Thiel, Science of The Total Environment, Volume 586, 15 May 2017, Pages 430–437