The Plastic Fish Project
Plastic ingestion has significant health consequences in fish species, such as reduced fitness and reproduction, which can lead to mortality. This can substantially impact the sustainability of populations and may even contribute to severe ecosystem changes. Impacts on fish in Australian waters that are readily consumed by humans are unknown. It is therefore in the interest of the Australian fishing industry (commercial and recreational) to understand the impacts of plastic ingestion in iconic local species and whether an investment in management strategies is required. Such information is important for local environmental and management stakeholders. While the transfer of plastics from the gut to tissue has been shown in laboratory environments, this study will be a key stepping stone in understanding the prevalence and risk of ingestion in wild animals.
This project investigates plastic ingestion in two commercially and recreationally important Australian fishes: bluespotted flathead (Platycephalus caeruleopunctatus) and tailor (Pomatomus saltatrix). It identifies the quantity and characteristics of ingested plastic such as polymer type, colour, shape and size within these fish, and explores how plastic type may relate to ecological factors such as diet.
The results of this study will provide a snapshot of what is happening in wild fish which ultimately has implications to the exposure of microplastics in human health.