Waters off B.C. coast awash in plastic particles, says head of new ocean pollution program
Water samples from off the B.C. coast have found up to about 9,200 particles of plastic per cubic metre, the director of a new ocean pollution program at the Vancouver Aquarium said Tuesday.
Based on 34 water samples taken between inshore waters and 1,200 kilometres due west of Victoria, the concentrations of microplastics — pieces typically the size of a coffee ground — were found to increase in proximity to the mainland coast.
Microplastics can be ingested by plankton, invertebrates and other marine life forming the base of the food chain; ingestion of plastics may make organisms think they are full, causing them to starve.
“There is extensive contamination of sea water by microplastics,” confirmed Peter Ross, a former research scientist with the federal Institute of Ocean Sciences in Sidney on Vancouver Island. “It raises the questions: where are they coming from and do they pose a threat to the food web? This will remain a priority for the aquarium.”
The situation could worsen as small plastic particles from the Japanese earthquake in 2011 continue to drift to B.C. waters.
Due to geography and currents, Queen Charlotte Sound off northeastern Vancouver Island recorded the highest levels of microplastics at a mean 7,630 particles per cubic metre — with an overall study high of 9,180 particles.
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