Plastics in North Sea fish

Published on
July 2, 2013

In a study of stomach contents of 1203 fishes from the North Sea, 2.6% of the animals was found to have ingested plastic. Very thing threads (‘clothing dust’) was not included in these data. Differences were observed between fish species and areas.

At least 13% of cods had plastics in the stomach, whereas no plastic was found in Atlantic mackerel or gray gurnard. Among herring, whiting, horse mackerel and haddock one to six percent had plastic. Fishes from the southern part of the North Sea had ingested plastics more often (5.4%) than fishes from further north (1.2%). All plastic fragments were smaller than 5 mm, and very few fish contained more than a single particle. These quantities are not expected to have direct serious consequences for individuals, but indirect impacts are impossible to evaluate. Also the ingestion of plastics by very young or larval fishes deserves additional attention.


  • Plastic in North Sea Fish
    E.M. Foekema, C. de Gruijter, M.T. Mergia, J.A. van Franeker, A.J. Murk & A.A. Koelmans. (2013) Environmental Science and Technology 47: 8818–8824.

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