Microplastics have been found for the first time in fish from the Peruvian Amazon.
The announcement was made by the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment, which detailed an investigation that has identified microplastics in the stomachs of fish from the River Amazon.
The fish in whose stomachs the plastic was found are known as ‘Boquichico’ (Prochilodus nigricans Agassiz) and they are found in the Amazon Basin.
Experts from the Peruvian Amazon Research Institute, which is attached to the Peruvian Ministry of the Environment, said that the fish that were sampled were taken from the Belen Market in the city of Iquitos, in the Loreto region, after having been fished from the Amazon River.
The scientists warned: “The results would suggest that some fishing areas are being affected by the mismanagement of plastic waste, negatively impacting the ecosystems and ichthyofauna of the Peruvian Amazon; and through consumption it could affect people’s health.”
The scientists argued that this discovery was of great importance given that the fish is relied upon as a source of food in the area. They added that the presence of microplastics adds to the existing list of threats faced by the species, which includes “oil activity and as a migratory species it has been affected by hydroelectric plants”.
The researchers said: “In the specific case of the fish analysed, they could have come from areas near Iquitos (the fish were fresh); and they could even be from the lower part of the Itaya River (just at the height of the Belen market), which is one of the areas most impacted by contamination by solid waste, and where people are frequently observed fishing.”
The scientists studied 11 species of fish (50 individuals). In six individuals from the Boquichico species, they found 17 microplastic particles, whose sizes varied from 0.4 to 4.39 millimetres.
The experts’ findings have been published in academic article titled ‘First record of ingestion of microplastics by a commercially important fish in the city of Iquitos, Peruvian Amazon’ (‘Primer registro de ingestion de microplasticos por un pez de importancia comercial en la ciudad de Iquitos, Amazonia Peruana’). The study was published in the academic journal Folia Amazonica.
This new study comes after microplastics have been identified all over the world, including in places that had been until now spared, such as Antarctica. In 2020, researchers from the University of Tasmania identified 14 different kinds of plastic that were smaller than 5 millimetres in an ice core from 2009.