Plastic ingestion by fish in the coastal waters of the Hengchun Peninsula, Taiwan: Associated with human activity but no evidence of biomagnification
Plastic pollution has become a global threat to the marine environment. Many studies have indicated that marine creatures are at risk of plastic ingestion, but relevant studies are still lacking in Taiwan. In this study, we quantified plastic debris ingestion by marine fish in the coastal waters of the Hengchun Peninsula, including the Kenting National park, located in southern Taiwan. We also investigated possible biotic and abiotic factors associated with the quantity of ingested plastic by fish. In the 117 fish samples we examined, 94.87% of them had ingested plastic debris, and all of the observed debris was microplastics (<5 mm). The average number of ingested microplastics was 5.6 ± 5.1 pieces per fish (ranged 0–32 pieces per fish). The major type and color of microplastics were fiber (96%) and blue (43%), respectively. The quantity of ingested microplastics was not significantly different between the reef and pelagic fish. However, reef fish from the more populated west and south coast ingested more microplastics than that from the east coast, suggesting that microplastic ingestion by fish is related to human activity. Regarding biotic factors, the size, trophic level, and taxonomic family of the fish were not significantly associated with the number of ingested microplastics. Our results, the first investigation of microplastic ingestion in marine fish of Taiwan, show a high prevalence of microplastic ingestion but no biomagnification of microplastics in the fish. More research is much needed to better characterize the biological and ecological impacts of plastic debris on fish.