Microplastics are now contaminating shellfish

Dear editor,

Microplastics are now the biggest threat to the marine environment and the sea food industry. The toxins from the degrading plastics cause DNA damage in all species. We’ve all seen the photos of plastic bags and bottles floating in the ocean which get the blame for this brewing catastrophe, but the “elephant in the room” is the aquaculture industry itself.

For example, here in Baynes Sound (which produces half of all shellfish in BC), the overuse and abuse of plastics used in the shellfish industry has made this area a scientifically identified “hot spot” for microplastics.

The annual Denman Island beach clean up has removed three to four tons of plastics from their beaches annually for over a decade. Well over 90 per cent of this debris is directly related to shellfish cultivation, is re-useable and is offered back before going to the landfill. For an industry claiming to be green and sustainable, I’ve yet to see the evidence.

DFO has recently launched the Integrated Geoduck Management Framework which will potentially add 16 tons of PVC pipe per acre. PVC is a known human carcinogen and is the most environmentally hazardous consumer material ever produced.

DFO and the BC Shellfish Growers Assoc. have refused to educate the growers that microplastics are now contaminating shellfish. If growers were aware, they could reduce their use of plastics and remove unnecessary plastics and if DFO cared, it could create incentives to find alternatives to plastic by offering grant monies. DFO could also start enforcing the Conditions of Licence which states that all equipment must be secured.

How sad that Baynes Sound, having met all the criteria and being identified by DFO as an EBSA (Ecologically and Biologically Sensitive Area) has reached the tipping point and DFO doesn’t really care! If you do, please send your concerns to Dominic LeBlanc the Minister of Fisheries, Oceans, and the Canadian Coast Guard – dominic.leblanc@parl.gc.ca

Edina Johnston

Denman Island