Research needed on impact of microplastics on B.C. shellfish industry: study

SFU’s department of biological sciences recommends deeper look into shellfish ingesting microbeads

A scientific study that found high levels of microplastics in the ocean near British Columbia’s primary shellfish farms has scientists calling for more research to assess the impact of the pollution on the industry.

The study from Simon Fraser University’s department of biological sciences recommends a deeper look into the extent that shellfish ingest microbeads, microfibres and microfragments after the plastics were found near oyster farms off eastern Vancouver Island.

The report, published Wednesday in the open-access journal PLOS ONE, said evidence of microplastics was found at 16 sites that were tested in the Baynes Sound and Lambert Channel areas, which are home to about 50 per cent of the province’s shellfish farms.

“Our findings have shown that B.C.’s premier oyster growing region is highly contaminated with microplastics, particularly microbeads,” the 16-page report concluded. “It would be prudent to assess the degree to which oysters from the region are ingesting microplastics.”

The report said sources of the microplastics in the area include the shellfish industry and possibly towns near the Comox Estuary.

Assessments of the impact microplastics have on the shellfish could help the industry and protect the health of oysters, clams and mussels in Canada and worldwide, the report concluded.

“People are just realizing what has happened with plastics in the ocean,” Prof. Leah Bendell, the report’s co-author, said in an interview. Bendell is an ecotoxicologist and has been studying the Baynes Sound area for 20 years.

“We’re in a crisis situation where we just have to stop putting plastics in the ocean. Zero tolerance.”

Bendell said annual volunteer clean-up efforts along the shoreline off Baynes Sound regularly collect up to five tonnes of plastic waste from the area’s shellfish farms, including plastic pipes, cages and ropes.

A spokesman for B.C.’s shellfish industry said reducing plastic pollution should be a global goal, but B.C. oyster farms and its consumers are not under threat from microplastics.

“You are much more likely to get microplastics in beer, in honey, in bottled water,” said Stephen Pocock, president of the B.C. Shellfish Growers Association.

He said he supported efforts to reduce the use of microbeads including in shower gels, facial scrubs and toothpaste. Pocock, who operates a shellfish farm near Quadra Island, about 100 kilometres north of Baynes Sound, said the amounts of microplastics found in oysters appear to be minuscule.

The association is expecting the release of a two-year study of microplastics and shellfish, he said.

The association said the microplastics study was conducted by scientists at the University of Victoria and received funding from the group and the Department of Fisheries and Oceans.

Bendell said oysters and clams serve as the ocean’s filters and the effect of the increased presence of microplastics must be determined.

“We’re just on the cusp of figuring out how bad this really is,” she said.

Dirk Meissner, The Canadian Press

Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.

Just Posted

Northwest Regional Airport terminal project officially opens

Celebration today marks the completion of phase one of the Terrace-Kitimat airport expansion

Terrace Peaks wraps up season with year end show

Year end awards honoured seven athletes and one director for their work this past season

North coast represented on B.C.’s new Wild Salmon Advisory Council

Joy Thorkelson, James Lawson and Tasha Sutcliffe will help create strategies to protect B.C. salmon

Terrace Church’s Food Bank wins B.C. photo contest

A Terrace picture of a young girl donating her birthday money to the food bank was the winning shot

Tahltan to get $7-million annual cut of Brucejack tax revenue

The Tahltan First Nation will receive a $7-million annual share of the… Continue reading

REPLAY: B.C. this week in video

In case you missed it, here’s a look at replay-worthy highlights from across the province this week

B.C. NHL prospect expected to make ‘full recovery’ after an incident in Calgary

Jordy Bellerive was injured in a reported house fire Saturday night

BC Lions defensive back Marcell Young levels streaker in home opener

Young hit the fan near one of the 45-yard lines

Police: Taxi driver who hit 8 Moscow pedestrians fell asleep

Two Mexican World Cup fans were among those hit

B.C. VIEWS: Orphans of our urban drug culture neglected again

Child advocate Bernard Richard leaves B.C. with harsh message

From marijuana beer to pot cookies, Canadian companies creating cannabis edibles

Manufacturers think that edibles will do well with users who don’t want to smoke or vape

Privacy lawyer warns against victim blaming in recent sextortion scams

Perpetrators get sexual photos of the victim and threaten to share them with friends and families

QB Jennings leads Lions to 22-10 win over Alouettes

B.C. wins CFL home opener over Montreal

Most Read