Why Ocean Cleanup is Critical

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As Players for the Planet gets ready to launch our ocean clean-up campaign in Santo Domingo in partnership with Parley, we wanted to further look into the effects of ocean trash and see how it directly impacts us as individuals. While we often see images of marine animals being directly harmed by our large pieces of anthropogenic (def: caused by humans) debris, we often fail to think about our pollution at a much smaller level. Some of our smaller pieces of trash, like fibers from clothing or pieces of tiny plastic end up in the intestinal tracts of fish and in the shells of marine mollusks and therefore, can end up in our GI tracts. Studies have shown that small anthropogenic debris can lead to cellular necrosis, inflammation and lacerations to our intestinal tissue. We took a look at a 2015 study that investigated the likelihood that you would find plastic or fibers in fish and shellfish that were being sold at markets for human consumption. Other studies in the past looked exclusively at wild caught fish but this study focused specifically on fish we eat, species that included salmon, bass, sanddabs and herring.


Paotere Fish Market in Indonesia:

  • 21 / 76 (28%) of individual fish investigated had anthropogenic debris in their GI tract

  • 6 / 11 (55%) of species investigated had anthropogenic debris in their GI tract

  • Species included mackerel, shortfin scad, and herring

  • Some fish had up to 21 pieces of debris!

  • Every piece of debris was plastic!


Half Moon Bay & Princeton in California:

  • 16 / 64 (25%) of individual fish investigated had anthropogenic debris in their GI tract

  • 8 / 12 (67%) of species investigated had anthropogenic debris in their GI tract

  • Species included rockfish, salmon and striped bass

  • 4 / 12 (25%) Pacific oysters investigated had anthropogenic debris in them

  • Majority of the debris were visible fibers!


The study did not draw a conclusion as to why the debris in Indonesia was comprised of exclusively plastic while the majority of the debris in the seafood found in California were fibers. The scientists speculated that it could be due to how each country manages their waste. While Indonesia ranks extremely poorly in anthropogenic waste management at 2nd worst in the world, the US fares only slightly better at 20th.


Now, before you say, “eh, I’ll take my chances with the 25% that there’s some human pollutant in my seafood”, keep in mind this is a very conservative study. This study only counted pieces of debris that exceeded 0.5mm. For reference, the width of your fingernail is 1 mm and you can see your roommate’s clippings sitting on the coffee table with your naked eye all too easily right now! These small pieces of debris often start as big pieces and we hope that you will help us in our cleanup effort before more of this pollution finds its way into our food!