New plastic pollution research on Fogo Island, NL

One of the types of plastics we’ve consistently found in our studies is the green nylon thread from fishing gear. We’re working to figure out the impacts of fishing gear on cod, and are styuding gear to see if we can reduce its fragmentation in the marine environment.

As part of her MSc. in Fisheries Science at the Marine Institute of Memorial University of Newfoundland, Jacquelyn Saturno is working on  this issue on Fogo Island. Since Fogo Island is a fishing community, she is studying the relationship between fishing gear nylon that sheds plastic during the fishing process and the presence of this plastic in the fisheries food web.

She has collected gastrointestinal (GI) tracts from Atlantic cod (Gadus morhua) as a guest of local fish harvesters to see if, and how many, plastics the fish have ingested. Saturno’s study will be the first to examine the relationship between plastic contamination to harvested fish and the fishing equipment used. In communities with high fishing activity, like Fogo Island, it is imperative that people be provided with the knowledge about the levels of contamination in their fish, and the ways the fish become contaminated. This research is in partnership with the Shorefast Foundation, who have been a tremendous help during the collection process on Fogo Island and community engagement.

Special thanks to Aubrey and Marie Payne for setting up their fishing stage as a laboratory, to the Shorefast Foundation for accommodations and networks, to fish harvestersGeorge Ford, Donna Ford, Michael Ford, and Leslie Hancock who took Saturno on board to collect fish guts, and to the Harris Center at MUN and the National Geographic Society for their financial support for field work.