As Uncle Attenborough has made very clear, we are choking the world’s oceans with plastic trash, whether it’s the once-idyllic waters of the Carribean or the bottom of the world’s deepest ocean trench. A series of newly-released photographs is serving as a yet another grim reminder of this prevalent problem.
The images show a monkfish that was recently caught with a whole 500-milliliter plastic bottle lodged in its stomach. Monkfish have super wide mouths and distensible stomachs, meaning they can swallow anything up to and including the size of themselves, so it's not just small items putting marine creatures in danger.
If that doesn't convince you to recycle your plastic trash properly, not much will.
According to the Jeonbuk Environmental Movement Coalition, the photograph was taken by a group of fishermen after catching the commonly-eaten fish near Buan-Gun in North Jeolla, the Republic of Korea.
“We’re finding more plastic and trash inside fish these days,” Hwan, the fishermen who caught the fish, told South Korean newspaper JoongAng Ilbo.
“I’ve found vinyl products, cans and pieces of plastic inside some fish, and the type of the fish is not limited to monkfish. I’ve found plastic waste inside mudskippers and bartail flatheads, too."
“It is worrying,” Hwang added, “because people don’t seem to care for the environment.”
The problem of plastic pollution is not always as simple as marine life swallowing whole pieces of trash, although that is evidently a concern. Microplastics, tiny plastic pieces less than 5 millimeters long, are small enough to become embedded in animals' tissue through ingestion or respiration. Eating these fish also means those hundreds of microplastic are winding up in your body too.
Studies have suggested that particularly small microplastics may even enter your bloodstream, lymphatic system, liver, and intestinal tract. You can also, unsurprisingly, find them in human poop.
The health effects of microplastic exposure are not yet clear. However, most scientists would argue that microplastics aren’t exactly the cornerstone of a healthy diet. Just this year, the World Health Organization (WHO) announced it is launching an investigation into the long-term risks of microplastics in drinking water.
In more depressing plastic news, locals in Indonesia recently came across a dead sperm whale that contained around 5.9 kilograms (13 pounds) of plastic trash in its digestive tract, including at least four plastic bottles, 25 plastic bags, two pairs of plastic flip-flops, and over 100 plastic cups. You can see for yourself right here.