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Microplastics Found in Marine Life

By Erin Loury, FISHBIO
10/05/15 -- Tiny bits of plastic, known as microplastics, are becoming a massive aquatic problem. It may be easy to think plastic poses no problem if it's so tiny you can barely even see it. However, the Vancouver Aquarium Marine Science Centre has recently documented disturbing evidence off the coast of British Columbia that zooplankton, the tiny animals at the bottom of the marine food web, are ingesting plastics at surprising rates. The authors found that one in every 34 copepods, and one in every 17 euphausiids contained plastic (Desforges et al. 2015). These copepods and euphausiids in turn serve as a primary food source for juvenile salmon. The study authors estimated that at these rates, a juvenile salmon off the British Columbia coast would consume two to seven microplastic particles per day in its prey. For those of us who enjoy eating Pacific salmon, this is a truly unsettling thought - the last thing we want is seafood riddled with plastic.

Specimen bottle of small pieces of plastic found in Marine life and fish, Photo by 5 Gyres, FISHBIO
Microplastics, Photo by 5 Gyres

A study published last month confirmed that fish and shellfish on sale for human consumption in California and Indonesia indeed contain plastic debris and fibers (Rochman et al 2015a). Of the individual fish sampled, 28 percent in Sulawesi, Indonesia, and 25 percent in California had debris from human products in their digestive tracts. This finding was not limited to just a few species: six out of 11 sampled species in Indonesia and eight out of 12 sampled species in California (including striped bass and Chinook salmon) had ingested this debris. There was a surprising difference in the types of debris found in fish from the two locations. All debris found in fish from Indonesia were plastic (including Styrofoam), with no fibers from textiles found. In contrast, the primary debris in California fish samples were fibers, which might either be natural (like cotton) or synthetic, along with the occasional plastic or Styrofoam piece.

Another source of microplastic in the ocean that has recently come under intense scrutiny are "microbeads." These are small plastic beads less than 1 mm in diameter made from synthetic polymers, and are used in numerous household products, especially those used for scrubbing, like face wash, body wash, and cleaning supplies. Researchers recently estimated that 8 trillion microbeads wash into aquatic habitats in the U.S. each day, which is enough to cover more than 300 tennis courts with a single layer of these little beads (Rochman et al. 2015b). When plastics like microbeads end up in the ocean, they can soak up pollutants, which can transfer chemicals into the tissues of fish when the animals inadvertently consume the plastics. More research is needed to determine whether microplastics consumed by fish and shellfish are impacting human health.

The California legislature is beginning to address the plastic issue, and in early September passed the bill AB 888 Waste management: plastic microbeads (Rep. Richard Bloom, D-Santa Monica), which is awaiting the governor's signature. Starting in 2020, the bill would ban the sales of any "personal care product containing plastic microbeads that are used to exfoliate or cleanse in a rinse-off product, as specified." However, the bill would still exempt products containing less than 1 part per million (ppm) of plastic microbeads by weight. Colorado, Connecticut, Illinois, New Jersey, Maine, Maryland and Wisconsin have already regulated or banned microbeads, although researchers caution that vague wording in these bans offers loopholes for microbeads to slip through (Rochman et al 2015b).

It is important to note that the microplastics in the first two studies described above were not microbeads, but actually small fragments of other plastics and synthetic fibers that have broken down. Consequently, this microplastic challenge doesn't stop with the ban of the microbead. There are still many plastics out there that end up in our rivers and beaches. Each of us has a part play in preventing plastic pollution from entering out waterways. The best way to do that is to avoid plastic to begin with, and go back to the old "3R's" mantra: reduce, reuse, and (if you must purchase) recycle.

FISHBIO is a dedicated group of research scientists, engineers, and technicians that specialize in counting, tracking, and analyzing trends in fish and wildlife populations throughout the world. An expert staff, technical capacity, and state-of-the-art equipment make FISHBIO a trailblazer in aquatic research. For more information, please visit FISHBIO.com.


Fishing Reports

A Hot Summer’s Day on Chico Creek
A Hot Summer's Day on Chico Creek, Steven T. Callan
On Patrol by Steven T. Callan
07/25/16 -- I’ve been exploring Northern California’s streams -- above and below the surface -- for most of my life. One of my most memorable adventures took place on a hot summer’s day in 1964, not long after my sixteenth...Full Story
Brownie’s Choice
Art work by Isabella Langaman
By Don Webster
Disregard the story’s title. I don’t really have a “first” name. If I did, it would probably be something like Leviathan or Behemoth or maybe Lunker. Officially, I’m a trout. A brown trout. A giant, brown trout. Possibly the biggest, fattest...Full Story
Keddie Ridge
Scouting Deerheart Lake, photo by Phil Akers
Article and photos by Phil “Flip” Akers
11/14/15 -- Adjacent to both Lake Almanor and Mountain Meadows, between the towns of Westwood and Greenville, is a seemingly forgotten piece of backcountry; Keddie Ridge – aka Ridge World – where ancient rocks... Full Story
Let’s check out the Upper Sac
Lake Siskiyou with Mt. Shasta standing sentinel. photo by Phil Akers
Article and photos by Phil "Flip" Akers
09/06/15 -- The Upper Sacramento River – The Upper Sac – begins at Lake Siskiyou’s Box Canyon Dam and continues ~37 miles downstream to Lake Shasta. It is a classic freestone river born from the Mt. Shasta and Mt. Eddy... Full Story
How to make Tuscan Tuna Salad with Fennel By Frank Galusha
05/04/15 -- OK, you went ocean fishing. If your fish is fresh or if you have processed, vacuum packed and frozen your catch properly, there are many ways to enhance your meals. Almost everything taken from the ocean is not... Full Story
Fishing the Klamath below JC Boyle Dam
 Brian Buckingham with one of the larger fish from this section. This trout, estimated at 2 lbs., was caught near the BLM campground on the west shore six miles down the JC Boyle Dam on the Klamath River in Southern Oregon. Photo by author
By Trouteagle
03/02/15 -- Year round trout action can be found on the Klamath River within the 20 or so miles of free flow within Oregon and California. While fishing below the flumes at the JC Boyle powerhouse, it can be difficult to know just when...Full Story
Climbing Terms for the Fisherman
Trailhead Tales by Jim Broshears
10/14/14 -- For those of us who prefer to fish the rugged and remote streams and rivers for the elusive wild trout, rock climbing is a skill that is required to reach the special places where catching the big one is a “sure thing.” The skills...Full Story
German brown trout afternoon in Modoc
german brown trout in Modoc creek. MyOutdoorBuddy.com
By Lea Huetteman
09/04/14 -- Catching a German Brown Trout from the creeks in Modoc County is a fine way to spend an afternoon. There are many creeks in this part of California that drain the Warner Mountains. Stream trout fishing in this region opens...Full Story
Throw the kitchen sink at them
Indian Paintbrush is a favorite wildflower that carpets wilderness landscapes. Phil Flip Akers, myoutdoorbuddy.com
Article and photos by Phil Akers
08/20/14 -- Our wilderness areas are special, where Mother Nature is landlord and natural forces operate freely. Within the wilderness you will find no roads, shelters, picnic tables, toilets, or other conveniences. You enter at...Full Story
Humboldt Bay: Busy port, excellent fishery
Woodley Island Marina, Humboldt Bay, Eureka, California
03/06/04 -- Humboldt Bay, a busy commercial harbor and home port to many charter and private offshore fishing boats, is also popular with shore-based anglers and small boaters seeking bottomfish, sharks, crabs and clams...Full Story
Pulled into the pipes: Green Sturgeon
green sturgeon
By Erin Loury, FISHBIO
03/04/14 -- [Posted with permission of FISHBIO] Living in the Sacramento River can be a risky business for juvenile green sturgeon (Acipenser medirostris). The young fish must swim through a gauntlet of water... Full Story
Not Just Any Fish
California Golden Trout, California Heritage Trout Challenge, Not Just Any Fish, Phil
By Phil "Flip" Akers
02/14/13 -- Trout have inhabited California waters from the Sierra Nevada and Warner Mountains to the Pacific Ocean since prehistoric times. However, most of the trout caught by anglers are either hatchery raised fish...Full Story

 

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