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Vancouver Aquarium research finds "startling" level of plastic in our local waters

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – We now have proof that plastic is in the food chain in our local waters, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop buying seafood quite yet.

Dr. Peter Ross heads up the Vancouver Aquarium’s Ocean Pollution Research Program. He and his team looked at two types of plankton in four major areas of coastal BC: the Strait of Georgia, the west coast of Vancouver Island, northern Vancouver Island/Haida Gwaii, and offshore Pacific. They found what’s known as microplastic particles in both types of plankton, which is what other sea creatures like salmon feed on. “Microplastics” is the term used for barely visible litter in the form of small fragments, fibres and granules.

Dr. Ross says when we eat those same salmon, our exposure to plastic is a lot lower than theirs. “We do consume seafood, but not nearly enough as seals or whales, and we tend to only eat the muscle, so we’re probably limiting our exposure to many of these microplastics.”

However, he does call the findings troubling, “but as a scientist I have to say we have to study this a little bit more to better answer some of the questions about the implications for salmon, other species such as seals and whales and sea birds, and also the implications for humans.”

The next step for Ross and his team is to look into where the plastic is coming from – sewage or nets or ropes or just garbage – and how it’s affecting animals further up the food chain. He says when we know where it’s coming from, we can start working on a solution.

The research is published in the international journal Archives of Environmental Contamination and Toxicology.