Plastics have been found in every body of water and landscape in the world. Most of these plastics are microplastics smaller than a grain of rice (<5mm), which means they become part of ecosystems at every level. The following summarizes our research on plastics, focused on the state of pollution in Newfoundland and Labrador.

Plastic ingestion studies

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Map of where fish were sampled from.

CLEAR has an ongoing commitment to monitor plastic contaminants in animals caught for food in Newfoundland and Labrador. Since 2015, we have surveyed over 1,500 fish from 4 different species, often with help from fishermen and women on wharves during the food fishery, where we collect our samples. We are pleased to share our results, some of the lowest ingestion rates in the world! To get involved, see our page on how to collect guts for us!

  • Atlantic cod: 1.68% of over 1,000 cod ingested plastic. That’s just over 1 in 150 fish. These include nearshore and offshore fish from the east and south shores of Newfoundland. In Europe, other ingestion rates range from 1.2% to 13%. There are only a hand full of studies on Atlantic cod plastic ingestion.
  • Capelin: 0% of 350 capelin ingested plastics. Capelin came from commercial fishermen on east and south shores of Newfoundland during the capelin roll in 2016. There are no other studies of plastic ingestion in capelin to compare our study to. Publication forthcoming.
  • Atlantic Salmon: 0% of 69 wild-caught salmon had ingested plastics. These fish were from Campbellton River.There are no other studies of plastic ingestion in Atlantic Salmon to compare our study to. Publication forthcoming.
  • Silver hake: 0% of 134 silver hake had ingested plastics. While silver hake are not caught for food in Newfoundland, they are fished commercially on Scotian shelf south of Newfoundland and in New England in the United States. Publication forthcoming.

Water surface studies

We use fine-mesh nets (335um) to skim the surface of water to monitor floating plastics. If you would like to see how our instruments are made or make your own, see our pages on the LADI trawl and BabyLegs, our two main instruments.

Holyrood, NL, June 2016: 1.33 plastics/ km². For more details, see our post on surface plastics at Holyrood.

We are currently processing samples for Nain, Petty Harbour, parts of Nunavut, western Greenland, and Sable Island, and are planning on sampling in Placentia Bay.

Shoreline studies

Monitoring plastics in land can happen via beach clean ups, which target larger plastics, or through quadrant and transect monitoring, which targets microplastics. We use, and encourage others to use, the Marine Debris Tracker app to monitor shoreline plastics so the data is public. These maps of debris were logged by the Marine Debris Tracker:

You can download specific data at the Marine Debris Tracker website. We also have instructions on how you can use the app to create your own data.