New England cuisine and tourism largely revolve around its seafood industry. Seafood shacks on the coast and oyster bars in our cities are all the rage. Recent research, however, is finding evidence that could potentially jeopardize the seafood industry on a global basis. Plastic particles are circulating in oceans and they could be finding their way back into our bodies when we eat seafood.
What the science is showing: Sarah Dudas is a shellfish biologist at Vancouver Island University. In 2015, she conducted a three-month study that found plastic particles in clams and oysters that were planted throughout the coast of the Strait of Georgia, British Columbia. Peter Ross, director of Vancouver Aquarium‘s Ocean Pollution Research has found that on average the coast of BC has 9,200 microplastic particles per cubic meter. He compares that to emptying a salt shaker into a large moving box. Peter’s job is to identify these particles and trace where they may be coming from in hopes that industry-wide standards can be put into place to minimize plastic in our oceans. Plastic particles like polystyrene (bean bag filler), microbeads (found in toothpaste) and microfibers (from clothing) have been identified. Microfibers are most likely slipping through filters of washing machines and waste treatment plants making their way into the ocean. These particles are being ingested by zooplankton and other bottom feeders, finding their way up the food chain and eventually into humans. Researchers are still studying whether these plastics leave the human body after consumed.
Bottom Line: Sarah Dudas says that microplastics are everywhere so you should not be overly concerned with eating seafood. She also found that there was no significant difference between plastic levels in farmed fish versus wild fish.
Written By: Charlotte Walker, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern