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Trash teeming the Ocean, What affect does it have to our Seafood?

Author: Fitri Ayunisa(Intern Seafood Savers), Arif Fajar Sulistyo(Seafood Savers Communication Assistant) -  
Translated: Arif Fajar Sulistyo


© Shutterstock / Rich Carey / WWF
© Shutterstock / Rich Carey / WWF

The increasing number of the human population each year is directly linked to the demand for plastic products in various sectors. Starting from the automotive industry sector, construction, food packaging, medicine, agriculture, to electronics. However, the fact is that 39.6% of the world’s plastic waste in 2013 came from food wrappers¹. Even though some of the packagings are placed in a landfill which then burned or recycled, some of the plastic ends up being thrown into the ocean.

Microplastic Sea Contaminated

© WWF-Aus / Veronica Joseph
© WWF-Aus / Veronica Joseph

At least, it is estimated that around 5,250,000,000,000 plastic waste weighing 268,940 tons is floating on the sea, and that doesn’t even include pieces on the seabed or the beaches. The number is increasing with time. Imagined oceans crowded with plastic pollution that invade our marine organisms today.

The main problem is that fish eat plastic waste in the ocean because they find interest in the smell of plastic chemical compounds³. When the plastic goes into the ocean and then mixed with salt water and finally cut into small pieces, the plastic will create a smell similar to krill – in the form of shrimp scattered in all oceans of the world. Especially with the fact that 9 out of 10 seabirds in the world today have plastic pieces on their bodies because they eat seafood animals that have also eaten plastic⁴.

If plastic waste continues to invade ocean areas, we can be sure that humans who routinely eat seafood consume at least 780,000 microplastics each year, and the human digestive system can absorb to 4,000 microplastics⁵. Worse yet, some scientists also predict that in 2050, predictions of plastic produced by humans are the size of four trucks per minute and FAO (2017) estimates more than 1 billion tons of plastic in that year.

Microplastics and Fish in Indonesian Waters

According to the FAO report in 2017, the largest plastic wastelands area in the oceans is in the Mediterranean Sea, in the East and Southeast Asia, as well as in the convergence zone of the North Atlantic and North Pacific Equator. Furthermore, there are five main areas of microplastic found in waters, namely (1) at sea level, (2) water column, (3) seabed, (4) coastline and(5) in the body of marine biota.

While in Indonesia, based on microplastic research on salt and fish in Indonesia, the highest level of microplastic pollution recorded can be found on the coast of Jakarta and South Sulawesi, which is between 7.5 to 10 particles per cubic meter. Added to that, a total of 58-89 percent of the fish studied were positive for microplastics. The highest concentrations are found in Makassar and Bitung.

The discovery of GESAMP (2015; FAO, 2017) also agrees with the argument above that more than 220 species found have been contaminated with microplastic waste, 55% of which is commercial marine products that are usually consumed again by humans – such as sardines, lobsters, shellfish, oysters, mackerel, to other fish species⁶.

Due to the lack of detailed and comprehensive information globally regarding the number of valid and microplastic impacts on capture fisheries and aquaculture resources, there is no definitive solution in the near future. However, one thing that is certain is the impact of microplastic exposure on aquaculture products will also affect humans, in terms of health risks (furthermore read here).

Realizing the impact of waste on the seafood we consume, let’s start from ourselves not to throw waste, primarily plastic, into the sea. We could also begin to reduce plastic use. If we are engaged in the fisheries business sector, we have to embed ourselves not to dump plastic in the ocean and use alternative materials that aren’t made of plastic. Whoever you are, let’s support a clean ocean and our seafood microplastic free!

#WeChooseToSave!

Source :

FAO. 2017. Microplastics in Fisheries and Aquaculture. http://www.fao.org/3/ca3540en/ca3540en.pdf.

Kathryn Miller, David Santillo dan Paul Johnston. 2016. Plastics in Seafood-Full Technical Review of The Occurrence, Fate, and Effects of Microplastics in Fish and Shellfish. http://www.greenpeace.to/greenpeace/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/plastics-in-seafood-technical-review.pdf.

NatGeo.2018. We Know Plastic Is Harming Marine Life. What About Us? https://www.nationalgeographic.com/magazine/2018/06/plastic-planet-health-pollution-waste-microplastics/

The Telegraph. August 2017. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/science/2017/08/15/fish-eat-plastic-ocean-smells-like-food-scientists-discover/.

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