The World Economic Forum reports that tiny larval fish in the nursery waters off the coast of Hawaii have a new and plentiful source of food, which has no nutritional value, is high in toxins, and can take decades to break down.
In these waters, plastic fragments outnumber baby fish by a ratio of seven to one, a recent study revealed.
Scientists have found bite-sized pieces of plastic invading ocean 'slicks' where baby fish feed and grow.
Life for many of the planet’s ocean fish species begins at the water’s surface, where naturally occurring slicks meander through the ocean. These thin strips of smooth water are a rich source of plankton, making a perfect nursery habitat for tiny larval fish eager for nutrition.
But, as the graphic shows, the same ocean movements that bring together this concentrated food supply also accumulate floating plastic fragments, which young fish mistake for plankton and ingest as food.
The study dissected hundreds of larval fish from Hawaii’s coastal slicks and found 8.6% of individuals had ingested pieces of plastic, almost two and a half times more than larval fish from nearby ambient waters.
Of the eight fish families analysed, seven contained plastic fragments. These include commercially targeted species such as swordfish, and flying fish which are a common food source for larger fish like tuna and seabirds.