Microplastics are one of the most pervasive global pollutants, and their presence in our oceans is a cause for great concern. As the name says, these are micro particles, less than 5mm in size, that have either been deliberately manufactured (e.g., microbeads in cosmetics), or emerge as larger plastics break down (nets, bottles, bags, clothing, etc.). They are roughly the same size range as plankton, and so when they show up in marine ecosystems they have the potential to be consumed by a vast array of organisms.
Dr. Brian Hunt and his team are concerned with the amount of microplastics that are consumed by zooplankton and herring. These are foundational species in the BC regional marine food webs, supporting many key species including salmon, seabirds, seals, sea lions and humpback whales. Moreover, herring represent a cultural, socio-economic and ecological key species for First Nations and coastal communities.