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The Gulf Stream, which curves along the southern shore of Newfoundland, is saturated with plastics. Fish that feed from the surface waters, where plastics tend to accumulate, are in an ideal position to ingest plastics.
But what about the bigger fish that eat these fish, especially when we eat those predators?
Laboratory - Hake - Rate - Plastics - Silver
In 2016, our laboratory collected 134 silver hake to check the rate at which they ate plastics. Since silver hake are predators that eat fish that feed from the surface waters where plastics tend to accumulate, we were prepared to see a lot of plastic.
To our surprise, when we opened their digestive tracts, we found zero plastics.
It turns out this is normal.
At first, we wondered if our results were a statistical anomaly. Most scientific literature reports ingestion rates well over our finding of zero. The ranges run from one per cent to 100 per cent, with an average of around 30 per cent.
Closer - Look - Studies - Ingestion - Rates
When we took a closer look at other studies, we found that most of them averaged ingestion rates across all fish species.
But fish feeding habits are highly variable. Different species, ages and feeding grounds make some species more or less likely to ingest plastics than others. Some fish species eat from the middle of the water column, where there are fewer plastics, for example.
Results - Studies - Data - Species
We untangled the results of these studies to see what the data said about each species.
We found that 41 per cent of all species studied do not ingest plastics! Silver hake and their zero per cent ingestion rates were not an anomaly at all.
Group - Experts - Chance - Plastics - Species
Why didn't we, a group of experts, know that there was a good chance we wouldn't find plastics in a fish species?
There are two potential reasons that this kind of knowledge doesn't circulate.
Science - Zero
First, in science, it's hard to get a zero published. The...
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