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A marine scientist at the University of Otago has found that a high percentage of fish caught in local waters have ingested microplastics
In a laboratory at Portobello on the Otago Peninsula, Isabella Clere spends most days staring through a powerful microscope at fish guts. She is looking for tiny plastic particles. Known as microplastics, these particles are smaller than 5mm in size.
Researchers have calculated that up to 14 million tonnes of plastic is flowing into the world’s oceans every year from coastal areas. Microplastics have, so far, been found in 114 different marine species.
Clere has found microplastics in the overwhelming majority of fish she has examined so far. The fish she is studying are caught by a commercial fishing company working the waters around Otago.
Her study is aimed at identifying what types of plastics are being ingested by fish. She hopes this knowledge will point to the sources of the plastics, plus add more understanding of the issues around plastics being in our oceans.
Part of Clere’s work will look at whether the chemicals from the plastics in the guts end up in the tissue of the fish, and therefore ingested by humans through the food chain.