New research by NUI Galway finds damage goes even deeper than we first thought
Nearly three quarters (73 per cent) of deep-water fish in the Northwest Atlantic have ingested plastic – one of the highest frequencies in the world – according to research by the National University of Ireland in Galway.
It found high levels of plastic from recovered dead deep-sea fish by trawling depths of up to 600m. Among the species they caught were three types of lanternfish, rakery beaconlamp, stout sawpalate and scaly dragonfish.
Scientists examined the stomach contents of the 233 fish they had gathered, ranging in size from 3.5cm to 59cm and found most of them had microplastic inside them from larger pieces including bottles, bags and skincare products dumped in the ocean. One small lanternfish, just 4.5cm long, had 13 pieces of microplastic in its stomach. It is thought they were exposed to the microplastic when they came to the surface at night to feed.
Dr Tom Doyle, a co-author of the study from the Ryan Institute at NUI Galway, said: “While there is clearly a concern that the ingestion of microplastics with associated toxins may have harmful effects on these fish, or even the fish that feed on them, our study highlights that these seemingly remote fish located thousands of kilometres from land and 600 metres down in our ocean are not isolated from our pollution.
“Indeed, it is worrying to think that our daily activities, such as washing our synthetic clothes in our washing machines, results in billions of microplastics entering our oceans through our waste water stream that may eventually end up in these deep-sea fish.