Microplastic Ingestion by Wild and Cultured Manila Clams (Venerupis philippinarum) from Baynes Sound, British Columbia
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Microplastics, plastic particles <5 mm, are an emerging concern in aquatic ecosystems. Because microplastics are small, they are available to many filter-feeding organisms, which can then be consumed by higher trophic level organisms, including humans. This study documents the quantity of microplastics present in wild and cultured Manila clams (Venerupis philippinarum). Three active shellfish farms and three reference beaches (i.e., non-shellfish farm sites) in Baynes Sound, British Columbia were chosen to examine the microplastic concentrations in wild and cultured Manila clams. Microplastics were isolated using a nitric acid digestion technique and enumerated from 54 clams (27 farmed and 27 non-farmed). Qualitative attributes, such as colour and microplastic type (fiber, fragment, or film) also were recorded. There was no significant difference (F = 1.29; df = 1,4; P = 0.289) between microplastic concentrations in cultured and wild clams. Microplastic concentrations ranged from 0.07 to 5.47 particles/g (from reference beach and shellfish farm clams, respectively). Fibers were the dominant microplastic (90 %); colourless and dark gray fibers were the most common colours observed (36 and 26 %, respectively). Although this indicates that microplastics are definitely present in seafood consumed by humans, shellfish aquaculture operations do not appear to be increasing microplastic concentrations in farmed clams in this region.
Funding for this project was provided by the Natural Sciences and Engineering Research Council (Undergraduate Student Research Award), the Canada Foundation for Innovation, and the British Columbia Knowledge Development Fund. Thank you to Dr. Eric Demers and Dr. Jane Watson for reviewing early stages of this manuscript, Dr. Peter Ross and Dr. Moira Galbraith for their extensive assistance and training, and Brenna Collicutt and Robert Bourdon for development of field and lab protocols. The authors would specifically like to thank the three shellfish farmers who allowed us access to their farms and clams.
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