Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Groundbreaking JUNK News: Plastic Sushi

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?


Anonymous said...

Hey this is amazing what your doing! I'm sadly shocked to find this in the middle of a random search and while I like to keep abreast of environmental issues, and research this is the first I've heard of the Soup. I really don't think enough has been done with the awarness of this issue. I will be adding a link to your research page to as many place's as I come across.

Sunnye said...

Golly, I'm an Atlantic & Caribbean coaster, so it looks like a yellowtail snapper (Ocyurus chrysurus) to me, but I don't think they get over that way, do they?

Anonymous said...

Thank you so much! My son Aidan (5 years old) check your blog every night. We are sad to hear about fish ingesting plastics. Aidan was so inspired by your story that he is trying to build a raft out of trash plastic bottles to float on our local river in Oregon.

Aidan says-"Thanks for all your hardwork and sharing your adventure on the computer."

That is it!

Julie Johnson said...

What a tragedy! I felt sick just reading this post. So so sad. Thank you for this voyage of such a high calling. I feel so helpless in doing anything as an individual, but know that is probably just fatalism.

I have greatly enjoyed reading your blog (and Roz's) and want to help. What would you suggest is the best way?

Anonymous said...


I asked Dr. David Greenfield to take a look at the photo of the fish on your site, and he said it looks like a young specimen of the thicklipped jack, Pseudocaranx cheilio, known as lehe in Hawaiian.

Hope that helps!

Bella said...

Joel, you are almost there...following your progress from remote points around AK...love from Bella

Maki said...

I remember your reply to my comment about the discovery of #268and now the #269. I can't believe the amount of plastic particle in his system!! Can you imagine how many more are impacted by these horrible plastic dumped by us selfish human beings? It's so frustrating that I can't even do much to minimize the damage that's already been done.

Jerry Critter said...

Living amongst the JUNK for the past 5 weeks, is it possible that the little fish actually ingested plastic fragments of JUNK itself?

In any event, the story of this fish is tragic. Will we be next?

john naglick said...

this is a really amazing blog for an equally amazing cause and undertaking. i wish you guys and girls all the best!

Gabe said...

Hi All

Just wanted to thank you for doing what you're doing. My friend Ron was on board a greenpeace ship that did some documentation of the trash vortex. I was appalled by A) how huge of a problem it is and B) how little the general public knows about this issue. Keep doing what you're doing! Thanks for being out there and spreading the word.

Citizen Green said...

Joel, Marcus, Anna

There was a nice segment about the Alguita, Dr. Moore, and the issue of plastic marine debris on the Thursday Nightline. I saw you three in some of the video footage. Nightline did a good story. Only a few more days!!

Linda A

Anonymous said...

almost there joel...

cant wait to hear some stories! You guys inspire me.

tons of love,

davidgaudin said...

Hey Bro. How sad it is to see what was in the belly of that fish. I almost feel ashamed of what we as humans are doing to our environment in the name of greed, carelessness, and ignorance. Thanks again for continuing to bring awareness to this problem. I just hope were not at the point of no return yet.
I look forward to hearing about your landing in Hawaii.

Anonymous said...

Who is going to clean up all of the garbage out there??

How long would it take to retrieve each bit of plastic floating around?

Is there anyone collecting the mess?