Small fish in the Northern Pacific Ocean are snacking on a whole mess of empty calories, namely in the form of confetti-sized flecks of tossed plastic garbage.
According to a study published by scientists at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, small fish – such as lanternfish — are ingesting as much as 24,000 tons of plastic each year. This is nasty noxtic plastic that causes trouble because it can make its way up the food chain to bigger sea critters and us fish-eating humans.
According to the Los Angeles Times:
The results came from a 2009 voyage a group of graduate students made to the so-called Pacific garbage patch, an area of high concentration of fragments of floating garbage about 1,000 miles off the California coast. Researchers cast nets into the water and collected 141 fish, mostly lanternfish measuring just a few inches, and took them to a laboratory in San Diego to dissect.
Scientists found plastic debris in 9.2% of their stomachs, much of it broken down into multicolored fragments smaller than a human fingernail. However, they believe the actual proportion of fish that have consumed plastic is significantly higher.