News Release 

Prey-size plastics in fish nurseries

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences

A study explores the pervasiveness of plastics in fish nurseries. Ocean conditions determine survivorship of larval fish, but habitat preferences and ocean surface conditions that influence survivorship are not well understood. Jamison M. Gove and colleagues conducted 100 plankton net tows at the ocean surface between 2016 and 2018 in the coastal waters of Hawaii Island. The authors found that surface slicks, which are lines of smooth surface water, function as larval fish nurseries. Compared with ambient water near slicks, slicks exhibited higher densities of larval fish as well as phytoplankton and zooplankton consumed by larval fish. Slick larval fish were also larger, more well-developed, and had more competent swimming abilities than larval fish in ambient water. However, the abundance of prey-sized plastics was 40.9% greater in slicks than in ambient waters. In slicks, plastics outnumbered larval fish 7 to 1. Upon dissection of 658 larval fish, the authors found that 8.6% of slick larval fish, including those of flying fish and swordfish, had ingested plastics. Although slicks comprise less than 10% of Hawaii Island's coastal waters, the authors found that slicks contained 42.3% of all neustonic, or surface-dwelling, larval fish and 91.8% of all floating plastics. The findings suggest that plastic accumulation in larval fish nurseries may affect marine ecosystems, according to the authors.


Article #19-07496: "Prey-size plastics are invading larval fish nurseries," by Jamison M. Gove et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Jamison M. Gove, Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center (NOAA), Honolulu, HI; tel: 808-725-5570; email:

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