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

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

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.

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Dallas Lajimodiere is wanted by the Abbotsford Police Department.
Man wanted by Abbotsford Police domestic violence unit

Dallas Lajimodiere has three arrest warrants, including for assault with a weapon

Russell Jonathon George Gurney was last seen in Chilliwack in mid-December. (RCMP photo)
RCMP ask for help to find missing Abbotsford man last seen in Chilliwack

Police and family are concerned for the well-being of Russell Jonathon George Gurney

Grade 6 students at Eugene Reimer Middle School have been participating in the Equity Backpack Project. (Submitted photo)
Equity Backpack Project in Abbotsford addresses inclusion and anti-racism

Grade 6 teacher Nerlap Sidhu says she wants students to develop ‘strong sense of self’

The UFV Cascades women’s basketball program has announced the signing of Langley’s Esther Allison and Edmonton’s Charley Arnold for 2021. (UFV Cascades photo)
Langley’s Allison, Edmonton’s Arnold signed by UFV Cascades

Women’s basketball program adds pair of recruits for 2021, reporting to Abbotsford later this year

Maj.-Gen. Dany Fortin, vice-president of logistics and operations at the Public Health Agency of Canada, speaks at a news conference on the COVID-19 pandemic in Ottawa, on Friday, Jan. 15, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Justin Tang
B.C. records 500 new COVID-19 cases Wednesday, 14 deaths

Outbreak at Surrey Pretrial jail, two more in health care

Vancouver Canucks’ Travis Hamonic grabs Montreal Canadiens’ Josh Anderson by the face during first period NHL action in Vancouver, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Jonathan Hayward
Horvat scores winner as Canucks dump Habs 6-5 in shootout thriller

Vancouver and Montreal clash again Thursday night

A woman writes a message on a memorial mural wall by street artist James “Smokey Devil” Hardy during a memorial to remember victims of illicit drug overdose deaths on International Overdose Awareness Day, in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver, on Monday, August 31, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Darryl Dyck
B.C. paramedics respond to record-breaking number of overdose calls in 2020

On the front lines, COVID-19 has not only led to more calls, but increased the complexity

Eighteen-year-old Aidan Webber died in a marine accident in 2019. He was a Canadian Junior BMX champion from Nanaimo. (Submitted)
Inadequate safety training a factor in teen BMX star’s workplace death in 2019

Aidan Webber was crushed by a barge at a fish farm near Port Hardy

Southern resident killer whales in B.C. waters. Research shows the population’s females are more negatively influenced by vessel traffic than males. (Photo supplied by Ocean Wise Conservation Association)
Female orcas less likely to feed in presence of vessel traffic: study

Research the southern resident population raises concerns over reproduction capacity

(Black Press Media files)
Transport Canada not budging on enclosed deck rules, despite calls from BC Ferries union

There have been at least 23 cases of the U.K. variant detected in Canada, four of which are in B.C.

The Elk Valley Hospital is adapting to meet the needs of patients in the Elk Valley.
1-in-5 COVID tests coming back positive in and around Fernie, sparking concern

Dr Ron Clark of Elk Valley Hospital said one in five tests was returning positive for COVID-19

Cannabis bought in British Columbia (Ashley Wadhwani/Black Press Media)
Is it time to start thinking about greener ways to package cannabis?

Packaging suppliers are still figuring eco-friendly and affordable packaging options that fit the mandates of Cannabis Regulations

Ralliers gather in front of the Cityviews Village apartment building in Maple Ridge to protest attempts to evict low-income tenants by the building owner. (Ronan O’Doherty - The News)
Tenants protest pressure tactics by new landlord at Maple Ridge apartment building

Protest held in front of Cityviews Village on 223 St. Tuesday to rally against low-income evictions

Most Read