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Young fish hooked on eating plastic

Young fish prefer to eat microplastic particles rather than their actual food according to research released by Swedish scientists in June.

The latest study published in the journal Science found that baby perch in the Baltic Sea will actively choose to eat plastic particles over plankton. This exposure to plastic results in the young perch being smaller, slower and more susceptible to predators.

“Larvae exposed to microplastic particles during development displayed changed behaviours and were much less active than fish that had been reared in water that contained no microplastic particles,” explained lead author Oona Lönnstedt.

“Furthermore, fish exposed to microplastic particles ignored the smell of predators which usually evoke innate anti-predator behaviours in naïve fish."

There has been growing concern about the detrimental impact that plastic rubbish has on marine life after reports earlier this year warned that there will be more plastic rubbish than fish in the ocean by 2050. The young fishes preference for plastic has been compared to some teenagers preference for unhealthy junk food.

“This is the first time an animal has been found to preferentially feed on plastic particles and is cause for concern," added Professor Peter Eklöv, co-author of the study.

Scientists hope that the study will serve to further highlight the danger of plastic waste — considered to be one of the biggest threats to the world’s oceans.

“The findings highlight ecologically important and previously under appreciated effects of microplastic particles that enter marine ecosystems, and emphasises the need for new management strategies or alternative biodegradable products that lowers the release of microplastic waste products,” a statement from the scientists added.  

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