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Oregon Coast Scientists Worry About Microplastics in Oysters, Clams: Video

Published 09/13/2017 at 7:17 PM PDT - Updated 09/13/2017 at 7:18 PM PDT
By Oregon Coast Beach Connection staff

Oregon Coast Scientists Worry About Microplastics in Oysters, Clams

(Oregon Coast) – Oregon Sea Grant and researchers at Portland State University are checking into a disturbing possibility: tiny bits of plastic in some seafood being harvested commercially and recreationally on the Oregon coast. A new video and other information released by Oregon Sea Grant shows the agency and PSU scientists Elise Granek and Britta Baechler literally digging into the issue.

The big concern is the multitude of microplastics floating in the ocean, and are these being digested by the food we eat? Oregon coast scientists are inspecting the guts and tissues of razor clams and oysters and then checking them thoroughly in a lab at PSU. If nothing else, the chemicals within the plastics might harm animals if eaten.

Microplastics can come from foams, tiny beads in facial creams, synthetic fibers from clothing, and disintegrating plastic bags, according to Baechler and Granek. These are defined as objects less than 5 mm.

“Our goal is to figure out if we have them in our oysters and clams, and if so, are they at problematic levels?” said Baechler, a PSU master’s student who is working on the Oregon Sea Grant-funded project under the guidance of PSU marine ecologist Elise Granek.

Oysters and clams are indiscriminate feeders, eating everything that can be filtered into their systems. Once they ingest plastic they cannot get rid of it.

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With help from the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife, Baechler dug up razor clams at nine sites along the Oregon coast and bought oysters at five locations to see if there are areas where microplastics are more prevalent. She collected the shellfish in the spring of 2017 and again this summer to see if microplastics are more common during certain times of the year.

Afterwards, the oysters and clams were taken to Granek's lab at PSU, where they were measured, weighed, shucked and frozen so they could later be dissolved in potassium hydroxide. Doing so leaves behind only a clear liquid containing sand and any plastics that may have been in the organism. Then, they have to analyze these under a microscope – a process that is still ongoing. The group is still examining the first batch of creatures that were dissolved and not all results are in yet. There remain many more to be dissolved as yet, and the group hopes to have this done by the end of September.

Not all the results are in yet.

“Ultimately, we’re hoping that this study brings awareness to Oregonians and even visitors to the state of Oregon that plastics that we use in our daily lives make their way into the environment,” Baechler said in the video. “We’re also hoping that our partners, like Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and other state agencies, might take this information to learn about hot spots for microplastics to address the problem.” Where to stay in this area - Where to eat - Maps and Virtual Tours








 

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