Volume 13, Issue 3 p. 510-515
Invited Commentary

Ingestion of microplastics by fish and its potential consequences from a physical perspective

Boris Jovanović

Corresponding Author

Boris Jovanović

Fish Diseases and Fisheries Biology, Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich (LMU), Munich, Germany

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First published: 25 April 2017
Citations: 361
EDITOR'S NOTE: This is 1 of 15 invited commentaries in the series “Current Understanding of Risks Posed by Microplastics in the Environment.” Each peer-reviewed commentary reflects the views and knowledge of international experts in this field and, collectively, inform our current understanding of microplastics fate and effects in the aquatic environment.


The European Marine Strategy Framework Directive and the United States Microbead Free Waters Act are credited for being ambitious in their goals for protecting the marine environment from microplastics pollution. As a result, the microplastic pollution of marine environments and the incidence of microplastic ingestion by fish is rapidly receiving an increase in overdue attention. This commentary summarizes recent discoveries regarding the potential negative effects of micro- and nanoplastic ingestion by fish. Analysis shows that the occurrence of microplastics in the gastrointestinal tract of fish is ephemeral, with low accumulation potential in the gastrointestinal tract, although translocation to the liver may occur. Nevertheless, the total load of micro- and nanoplastics that will pass through the gastrointestinal tract of a fish in its lifetime is likely high and will keep increasing in the future. This may pose a risk because there is evidence that micro- and nanoplastic ingestion can interfere with fish health. Observed effects of microplastics ingestion include (but are not necessarily limited to) intestinal blockage, physical damage, histopathological alterations in the intestines, change in behavior, change in lipid metabolism, and transfer to the liver. Integr Environ Assess Manag 2017;13:510–515. © 2017 SETAC