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Microplastics

How we affect the ocean we get food from.

Fishing is one of the oldest forms of human interaction with nature. It is said that almost 100 kilograms of seafood and fish, which can have tons of omega fatty acids, in addition to be a good source of protein, is consumed per person annually, in some countries.
However, recently seafood and fish have been questioned more and more in their sustainability and possible health risks. Many have the concerns about the pollutants and metals that are found in fish. For instance, one Rainbow Runner had been found to have ingested over a dozen pieces of plastic. Globally, more than half of fish contain microplastics. However, with around 33 billion pounds of plastic entering the ocean each year, this can be expected.

A plastic bag among small fish in Indonesia.

A plastic bag among small fish in Indonesia.


Microplastics are small plastic particles, up to 5 millimetres in diameter. Unfortunately, microplastics do not easily break down or simply disappear. That is why it is important to avoid microplastics entering the ocean in the first place.
One common type of microplastic, that you may have already encountered, are microbeads. These are used as exfoliants in health and beauty products. In fact, 90% of cosmetic products contain microplastics. These microplastics cannot be filtered out by waste water plants and end up in the ocean. This can be avoided, however, if consumers were to check whether their products contain plastic.
When microplastics are released into the ocean, we are mainly responsible. Simple actions that may seem harmless at first, such as your daily beauty routine, add up and have consequences, on the ocean and our diets for instance.

Endnotes:

“How Does Plastic End up in the Ocean?” WWF, 17 Apr. 2018, www.wwf.org.uk/updates/how-does-plastic-end-ocean.

Beat the Microbead. “International Campaign Against Plastic in Cosmetics - Beat the Microbead.” Beat the Microbead, 9 May 2023, www.beatthemicrobead.org.

What Are Microplastics? oceanservice.noaa.gov/facts/microplastics.html.

“Microplastics.” UNEP - UN Environment Programme, www.unep.org/resources/report/microplastics.

National Geographic, education.nationalgeographic.org/resource/microplastics.

Sequeira, Inês, et al. “Worldwide Contamination of Fish With Microplastics: A Brief Global Overview.” Marine Pollution Bulletin, vol. 160, Elsevier BV, Nov. 2020, p. 111681. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.marpolbul.2020.111681.

Thompson, Andrea. “From Fish to Humans, a Microplastic Invasion May Be Taking a Toll.” Scientific American, 4 Sept. 2018, www.scientificamerican.com/article/from-fish-to-humans-a-microplastic-invasion-may-be-taking-a-toll/#.

“Fish and Overfishing.” Our World in Data, ourworldindata.org/fish-and-overfishing.

Staff, Edn. “Fact Sheet: Plastics in the Ocean.” Earth Day, Apr. 2022, www.earthday.org/fact-sheet-plastics-in-the-ocean.

WebMD Editorial Contributors. “Health Benefits of Fish.” WebMD, 11 Sept. 2020, www.webmd.com/diet/health-benefits-fish.

Brown, Jessica. “Is Eating Fish Healthy?” BBC Future, 24 Feb. 2022, www.bbc.com/future/article/20201211-is-eating-fish-healthy.

Thomas, Terence Barrington, et al. “Fishing | Freshwater, Saltwater and Fly Fishing Techniques.” Encyclopedia Britannica, 2 June 2023, www.britannica.com/topic/fishing-recreation.