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Microplastics Found in the Stomachs of Arctic Belugas
By Ian Bongso-Seldrup, November 22, 2019 @ 12:30 AM (EST)
Source: The Narwal


In a study published this week in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin, researchers have reported the presence of microplastics in the insides of Arctic belugas. Scientists from the Ocean Wise Conservation Association looked at the stomachs and intestines of seven healthy adults that were harvested for food by hunters from the Inuvialuit community of Tuktoyaktuk in the Inuvik region of Canada’s Northwest Territories.

Lead author Rhiannon Moore, a researcher at the Ocean Wise Plastics Lab who is completing her Masters of Science at Simon Fraser University, said: “We found microplastics in every individual that we sampled.” Most of the approximately 350 pieces of plastic found inside the specimens were under two millimetres in size, which suggests that the plastics came from prey consumed by the whales or that they traveled a long way.

Researchers generally take samples from whales that have washed up or been stranded, indicating that the ingested plastic may have weakened the animals. However, since Moore’s samples were harvested for food, the plastic discovered was not necessarily making the animals sick. Similarly, it hasn’t been established whether the plastics are affecting the health of the Inuvialuit hunters who are consuming the whales.

A study published in 2017 estimated that there are 300 billion pieces of plastic floating in the Arctic Ocean—most around the size of a grain of rice. Plastic contamination has been identified across the Arctic—in seabirds, in shellfish, and in sea ice—thousands of miles from the nearest cities.

Read more here.

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