The latest study has proved that baby fish prefer eating plastic waste instead of zooplankton, which is their natural source of food.
A team of researchers from Uppsala University in Sweden discovered that perch larvae exposed to plastic particles suffer stunted growth and a change in behavior that increase the death rate.
Microplastic particles have 5mm and come from decomposed plastic waste, or manufactured plastics, such as microbeads originating from cosmetics products. These plastic particles reach oceans through lakes and waterways and pile up in huge concentrations in the shallow waters of coastal areas.
This study is the first experiment that proved how harmful is plastic waste for the growth of young fish. According to Oona Lonnstedt, co-author of the study, hatching rates were reduced, and fish started to have changes in their behavior, all because of the high concentrations of microplastic particles.
Scientists simulated the conditions of shallow waters and established the effects of microplastic waste of baby fish. As a consequence, larval perch exposed to high concentrations of microplastic polystyrene particles developed stunted growth.
Secondly, perch turned out to prefer feeding on microplastic particles instead on their natural food source represented by the free-swimming zooplankton. According to Professor Peter Eklov from the Uppsala University, it is the first time when an animal chose plastic waste over its natural source of food.
Moreover, Lonnstedt added that young fish showed behavior changes as they proved to be less active than the ones living in clean waters. In addition to this, those baby fish ignored predators, leading to a death rate four times higher than normal conditions.
In other words, young fish that have no anti-predatory behavior are most likely to be eaten by many other fish species. Furthermore, during the study, all of the baby fish exposed to microplastic particles were eaten by predators within 48 hours.
Scientists concluded at the end of the study that there are three primary risks for baby fish that feed on plastic waste, such as stunted growth, behavior change and lack of anti-predatory response. Hopefully, the results of this research will raise awareness among many of the world’s organizations.
If plastic waste continues to infest waters, in several years we will have to deal with many species of fish on the verge of extinction. Experts are working to develop new strategies to fight plastic waste and to protect future generations of baby fish.
Image Source:Drta Archiv