We remember seeing little 1-inch fish with yolk sacks still attached swimming next to JUNK 5 weeks ago. They followed our raft, enjoying the security of its undulating underbelly with nooks and crannies to hide in. They would ride what little bow wake JUNK created, and at times keeping up with the raft at 3 knots. Now they are a foot long, with yellow stripes, and there are fewer of them.
This morning I awoke to find two thumb-size flying fish on board. They became bait and soon I had one of the yellow fish on deck. I cut two fillets out of it and then opened it’s stomach. It was full of plastic. A dozen large fragments, and nothing else, filled the tiny stomach to capacity. There is no way this fish, at this size, will be able to pass those fragments.
These plastic particles, including one pre-production plastic pellet, are sinks for several persistent organic pollutants. PCBs, DDT and PAHs from the incomplete burning of fossils fuels, absorb into plastic marine debris, making the particles toxic. From the size of the particles inside the stomach, and the size of the fish’s cloaca, there is no way this fish can pass the plastic through its body. Therefore there will likely be a long residence period. Will the toxins in the plastic leach into the tissues of the fish?
This question about migration of toxins into the fisheries we harvest is the question we want to know now. Is plastic marine debris a vector for pollutants to enter the food chain and eventually your dinner plate?
To date, 267 species have been known to ingest or be entangled by plastic. Captain Charles Moore recently discovered #268, the 2-4 inch nocturnal lantern fish. Half of the specimens collected had plastic in their guts. One even had 84 individual fragments. Our fish, #269, adds to the list of marine organisms impacted by manmade synthetic compounds.
Please check out our website to see what research we are conducting on plastic in the marine environment. In the meantime, can anyone identify this fish to the species level?