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Evidence for rapid gut clearance of microplastic polyester fibers fed to Chinook Salmon: A tank study

June 25, 2020

Marine and freshwater plastic pollution is a challenging issue receiving large amounts of research and media attention. Yet, few studies have documented the impact of microplastic ingestion to aquatic organisms. In the Pacific Northwest, Chinook salmon are a culturally and commercially significant fish species. The presence of marine and freshwater microplastic pollution is well documented in Chinook salmon habitat, yet no research has investigated the impacts to salmon from microplastic ingestion. The majority of the marine microplastics found in the Salish Sea are microfibers, synthetic extruded polymers that come from commonly worn clothing. To understand the potential impacts of microfiber ingestion to fish, we ran a feeding experiment with juvenile Chinook salmon to determine if ingested fibers are retained or digestion rates altered over a 10 day digestion period. The experiment was completed in two trials, each consisted of 20 control and 20 treatment fish. Treatment fish were each fed an amended ration of 12 food pellets spiked with 20 polyester microfibers and control fish were fed the same ration without added microfibers. Fish were sampled at day 0, 3, 5, 7, and 10 to assess if fibers were retained in their gastrointestinal tract and to determine the rate of digestion. Fibers for the experiment came from washing a red polyester fleece jacket in a microfiber retention bag. Fibers had a mean length of 4.98 mm. Results showed fish were able to clear up to 94% of fed fibers over 10 days. Differences in mean gastrointestinal mass were not statistically significant at any sampled time between treatment and controls, suggesting that the ingestion of microfibers did not alter digestion rates. Further work is needed to understand if repeated exposures, expected in the environment, alter digestion or food assimilation for growth.

Publication Year 2020
Title Evidence for rapid gut clearance of microplastic polyester fibers fed to Chinook Salmon: A tank study
DOI 10.1016/j.envpol.2020.115083
Authors Andrew Spanjer, Theresa L. Liedtke, Kathleen E. Conn, Lisa K. Weiland, Robert W. Black, Nathan Godfrey
Publication Type Article
Publication Subtype Journal Article
Series Title Environmental Pollution
Index ID 70210965
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization Washington Water Science Center