“Pick up your garbage” Alberta man urges after finding fish deformed by plastic ring

Man holding fish with plastic ring around its midsection [Credit: Adam Turnbull]

Think littering doesn’t have much effect? Think again. An Alberta fisherman took to Facebook to post about a fish he’d found that had been deformed by a small plastic ring of garbage.

“Pick up your garbage. This is a Powerade wrapper which takes up no room in your pocket until you get to a garbage can,” wrote angler Adam Turnbull of Medicine Hat. Attached were some disturbing photos of a northern pike whose body had been severely altered by the piece of plastic, which was cutting deep into its middle.

“I was fishing at Strathcona Park when I hooked the fish,” Turnbull told Global News. “It fought like every other fish and then I saw the wound.”

Midsection of fish constricted and dark red from plastic ring around it
The fish’s middle was severely constricted by the plastic ring. [Credit: Adam Turnbull]

The fish’s midsection was red and severely compacted beneath a plastic ring that was much thinner than its body. Turnbull believes the fish probably got caught on the ring when it was smaller, then grew within it until it was impossible to get the piece of plastic off.

After inspecting the pike, Turnbull cut the plastic off its body and set it free.

One biologist who saw the photo told Turnbull the fish was lucky the ring didn’t appear to constrict any major organs, though it may have had its intestines squeezed and had slowed digestion as a result.

“We’ve seen loons tangled in fish line, ducks with their heads through six-pack holders, plastic bags wrapped around fish. It’s a bad thing,” biologist Michael Sullivan told Global. He said that even worse is when the plastics are found inside wildlife.

“We see it inside the stomachs of northern pike eating pop bottles and if you go really small, you can see it in the stomachs of fish that have eaten the plastic.”

Adam Turnbull's hand holding small ring of plastic
Even a small piece of plastic can have a massive effect on ecosystems. [Credit: Adam Turnbull]

Turnbull’s Facebook post has been shared over 30,000 times, hopefully spreading the message that we need to be careful with plastic garbage. After all, plastic doesn’t degrade, so any plastics that make it out into the ecosystem will stay there.

“That’s the grotesque thing about plastics — they’re going to be around with us for thousands and thousands of years,” Sullivan said. “The only way to get rid of it is to stop putting it in the water.”

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