Scientist appalled by Newfoundland’s underwater trash problem

Pottery, plastics and pedal bikes are just some of the underwater trash found by researchers.

A research scientist with Fisheries and Oceans Canada has been surveying what lies beneath the calm waters of harbours in Newfoundland. It isn’t pretty.

While there is debris with historical value, such as clay pottery and containers from European vessels visiting during the summer months, there is a much larger amount of trash.  It’s the more recent garbage found in our coastal environment that has Corey Morris concerned.

Barbecues and bikes

“It’s shocking,” said Morris, who is also an adjunct professor in the Department of Ocean Science at Memorial University.

“Some places it’s near impossible to see the natural bottom because its covered in so much debris.”

“Many of the new garbage contains plastic. We’re seeing vinyl siding, windows, carpet, flooring. We see household items such as fridges, stoves, washers — barbecues are very common in harbours around Newfoundland — tools [and] table saws,” he told CBC Radio’s the Broadcast.


Corey Morris says his most surprising find was this clothes dryer. When he opened the door he found work clothes and boots still inside. Household items and building materials were often found sitting on harbour floors. (Submitted to CBC by Corey Morris)

“And the number of pedal bikes are just incredible in our harbours for some reason.”

The purpose of the survey, conducted from 2007 to 2016, was to study the effects of harbour infrastructure on fish and fish habitat.

But over the course of almost a decade, it was the amount of underwater trash steadily accumulating that really stood out.

The researchers monitored 20 locations over the course of the survey, from the tip of the Northern Peninsula to the Southern Shore of the Avalon.

Every year they found new evidence of dumping — lawn chairs, fish trapped in discarded fishing gear, bags of garbage, clothing and rubber tires.

  A sculpin trapped in discarded fishing gear. Morris says the number of fish, both dead and alive, tangled in old gear was the most disturbing discovery. (Submitted to CBC by Corey Morris)

Widespread problem

Morris didn’t want to identify the harbours surveyed because, he said, it’s a widespread issue and not specific to any particular part of the province.

“Everywhere you go you’ve got the same problem. You can go in any harbour from one end of the province to the other and once you go down underwater, everything looks the same.”

Harbours without wharves were much cleaner, he said. But even in communities with newer wharves, the researchers saw debris appearing year after year.

“That’s what really raised my concern,” he said. “This is still happening. This is still an issue. Like, what are we doing?” …

Featured image: Beverage containers cover the floor of a harbour in Newfoundland. (Submitted to CBC by Corey Morris)


READ FULL ARTICLE:  What’s in your harbour? Scientist appalled by Newfoundland’s underwater trash problem

By Maggie Gillis, CBC News, 

November 21, 2017


Even Sea Creatures in the Deepest, Darkest Trenches have ingested Plastic

Plastic is probably everywhere in your life—but according to new research conducted in the very deepest parts of the ocean, that’s true even for the most remote tiny seafloor critters living almost 7 miles below the surface as well.

The tests, which were done on small shellfish found in deep-sea trenches across the Pacific Ocean, haven’t been published in a scientific journal yet and were conducted under the auspices of Sky Ocean Rescue, an anti-plastic pollution campaign run by a European media company. But this sort of finding has been expected for quite a while.

“These observations are the deepest possible record of microplastic occurrence and ingestion, indicating it is highly likely there are no marine ecosystems left that are not impacted by anthropogenic debris,” lead researcher Alan Jamieson, a senior lecturer in marine ecology at Newcastle University, in the United Kingdom, said in a press release.

Jamieson and his colleagues had already determined that these deep-sea trenches are full of plastic. But they also wanted to know how animals in that environment were interacting with the pollution that surrounds them. So they sent underwater robots down into trenches across the Pacific Ocean to collect small shellfish, which they brought back up to the surface so they could look inside their stomachs.

And those examinations were not pretty, to say the least. “The results were both immediate and startling,” Jamieson said in the press release. “There were instances where the fibers could actually be seen in the stomach contents as they were being removed.”

All told, they gathered 90 critters out of trenches ranging from 4 to 7 miles deep. More than half the animals from every single spot had plastic inside of them. This spanned a whole range of types of plastic, including textile materials like rayon and nylon, and harder plastics like polyvinyls.

According to calculations scientists published earlier this year, humans have produced a whopping 9 billion tons of plastic since figuring out how to make it in the first place. Most of that plastic has been discarded, and about 300 million tons of it have ended up in the ocean.

Once plastic reaches the ocean, it can gradually sink down to the seafloor, be carried around the globe by currents, and break down into infinitesimally small pieces. But it never actually disappears—it just lurks in the environment, waiting for scientists to come looking for it.

By Meghan Bartels, Newsweek, November 16, 2017