Not Good: These Fish Have Been Eating Toxic Plastic Trash in the Ocean

Scientists are investigating health risks related to eating the swimmers.
Jun 12, 2014· 0 MIN READ
Michael Sugerman is a summer intern at TakePart and a student at the University of Michigan, where he reports for the school newspaper, The Michigan Daily.

Scientists have discovered that roughly 60 percent of opah—one of Hawaii's most popular commercial fish—have been eating plastic trash in the ocean. That may be jeopardizing the species and could have negative health repercussions for consumers.

The plastic alone isn't a problem, but these tidbits of refuse absorb a "cocktail of contaminants" in the sea, from organic chemicals such as pesticides to metals including lead and copper, according to research from the University of California, Davis.

So the question remains: If 60 percent of opah have potentially toxic plastics in their bellies, does eating them put people at risk?

"We have no idea if [pollutants] are high in fish in Hawaii just yet," Jeffrey Drazen, an oceanography professor at the University of Hawaii, told Hawaii News Now June 10. His department discovered the prevalence of plastic in the opah diet.

"I think something we should be looking for is increase in these contaminants over time. Things we like to eat, we should start monitoring these things a little more closely," Drazen said.