Microplastics Find Their Way To Arctic Belugas Through Prey, New Study Finds | Energeticcity.ca
“It’s a concern because plastic, as we know, is everywhere, and we don’t really know the long term effect of all the different types of plastic that are found in these species,” he said. she stated in an interview.
Moore, who recently received a Masters of Science from Simon Fraser University and is the City of Victoria’s Zero Waste Outreach Coordinator, said many northern animals are facing environmental change.
“So we have species that are feeling the effects of climate change, increased shipping traffic, migration patterns – all kinds of changes. And so that’s just another… human-made impact that’s happening.
Microplastics are contaminants less than five millimeters in size.
Nearly 80% of the particles found in the stomachs of the fish studied come from textiles and clothing that are washed in waterways during the laundry process, according to the report.
There is evidence that tiny bacteria make these fibers their home, which increases their appetite for fish, he added.
The study documents microplastics in the stomachs of fish in the eastern Beaufort Sea, northern Yukon, Northwest Territories and Alaska.
The latest study builds on the team’s earlier work where researchers examined the bodies of seven beluga whales from an Indigenous hunt by members of the Inuvialuit community of Tuktoyaktuk in the western Canadian Arctic. This study estimated that whales ingest more than 145,000 particles of microplastics per year.
Moore said this confirms that belugas likely ingest plastics through their prey.
“So before… we were guessing and guessing, and now we really know plastic is in the food that whales eat, and probably other species.”
The latest study indicates that the deep Arctic waters have been identified as a potential source of plastic buildup.
Beluga whales are known to dive to depths greater than 1,000 meters and spend “significant” time at the bottom of the sea, he said.
“How climate change will influence the foraging behavior and activity of beluga whales on the high seas, and the exposure associated with plastic debris remains unclear,” the report said.
Peter Ross, senior scientist at the Raincoast Conservation Foundation and co-author of the report, said evidence suggests that microplastics in the Arctic largely find their way on currents in the Atlantic Ocean.
“Arctic communities are not really big players in contaminating their backyards,” he said.
“So we have yet another example of a more urbanized and industrialized southern pollutant moving quickly and easily through the Arctic.”
There is “almost universal contamination” of water in the Arctic, he said.
Moore said she was “not necessarily surprised” by the results due to the large amounts of plastic entering the oceans each year.
But she said she hopes the discovery will spur people to take action.
“Everyone loves whales, and no one really wants whales to be threatened in any way,” Moore said.
“Whenever you talk about whales and pollution it touches their hearts and so you hope it would inspire people to take action and to consider the choices of everyday life. ”
This report by The Canadian Press was first published on October 20, 2021.
Hina Alam, The Canadian Press