Two new studies show that plastics in oceans are ingested by fish, whales

Two studies were published in the last few weeks that focus on ingestion of plastic in the ocean by fish and whales.  The first was a field sampling study by two Scripps Institution of Oceanography graduate students, which found in part:

Of the 141 fishes spanning 27 species dissected in the study, Davison and Asch found that 9.2 percent of the stomach contents of mid-water fishes contained plastic debris, primarily broken-down bits smaller than a human fingernail. The researchers say the majority of the stomach plastic pieces were so small their origin could not be determined.

The second was a review of research literature to be presented at an international whaling forum, which found that certain species of whales (e.g Cuvier’s beaked whales in the northeast Atlantic) seem to have particularly high incidences of ingestion and death from plastic bags - probably because they are suction feeders. However, whales are subject to a myriad of other well-known threats including whaling, tissue-damaging noise pollution from off-shore oil exploration, and becoming entangled in or ingesting fishing nets, so the threat of plastics is not the most obvious issue for whales.

Regardless, these studies both show that plastics are ingested by marine animals and call into question the health effects for fish and whales, as well as the rest of the ocean ecosystem and even human health.  This is a great start to bringing understanding and awareness to the problems of plastics in the ocean, but much more research still needs to be done!