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This summer and fall, we have been collecting cod guts from the eastern and southern shores of the Avalon Peninsula to test them for plastics. Plastics are a contamination concern because they  act like sponges for chemicals such as pesticides, flame retardants, plasticizers, and other persistent organic pollutants. We ask fishermen and women if they would like to name their fish so they can see if their particular fish has eaten plastics. The results are below– we are still going through samples and have done about 300 of the 400+ fish guts we’ve collected. “Suspected” means we think they might be plastic, but they are so small or difficult to identify that we need to do more analysis. “Confirmed” means we found plastics, like the one pictured below. We will update this page as we do more research.

plastic fragment from a cod

Photograph of a plastic fragment found in a cod caught in Witless Bay, Newfoundland. Magnified 4.5 times.

Summary Table of Plastics Found

LOCATION # OF PLASTICS # OF FISH SAMPLED % OF SAMPLE
QUIDI VIDI 1 12 8.33
PORTUGAL COVE-ST. PHILLIPS 1 56 1.79
PETTY HARBOUR 0 44 0.00
BAULINE EAST 1 114 0.88
WITLESS BAY 2 87 2.30
BRIGUS SOUTH 2 35 5.71
TOTAL: 7 348 2.01

Summary of Named Fish and Plastics (named fish only)

LOCATION FISH NICKNAME # PLASTICS
QUIDI VIDI NO NAME 1
PORTUGAL COVE – ST. PHILLIPS FINNEGAN 0
PORTUGAL COVE – ST. PHILLIPS TUCKER 0
PORTUGAL COVE – ST. PHILLIPS DORY 0
PORTUGAL COVE – ST. PHILLIPS MM/KJ 0
PORTUGAL COVE – ST. PHILLIPS MATTY 1
PORTUGAL COVE – ST. PHILLIPS TOBY 0
PETTY HARBOUR FISHING FOR SUCCESS 0
PETTY HARBOUR BEAR 0
BAULINE EAST GLENDA 0
BAULINE EAST MADI 0
BAULINE EAST GRIZZ 0
BAULINE EAST BRIX 0
BAULINE EAST TITUS 0
BAULINE EAST SANDY 0
BAULINE EAST COOPER 1
WITLESS BAY LOAF 2
BRIGUS SOUTH MCDOYLES 2
BRIGUS SOUTH MCDOYLES 2

This project is lead by Jessica Melvin, a Masters student at the University Center of the Westfjords working out of the Civic Laboratory for Environmental Action Research (CLEAR) at Memorial University of Newfoundland. If you have any questions, you can contact her (jmelvin [at] mun.ca) or her supervisor, Dr. Max Liboiron (mliboiron [at] mun.ca).