Rebecca Sutton, Meg Sedlak, and Diana Lin of SFEI, in partnership with Carolynn Box of 5 Gyres, conducted ocean water sampling associated with an ambitious project. The project is focused on determining the characteristics and fate of microplastics in the Bay and adjacent ocean waters.
KQED reporter Lindsey Hoshaw published a story covering the team's activities along the California coast. After determinng that the Bay has greater than expected microplastic pollution, the science team, as reported by Hoshaw's story, is conducting further ground-breaking research:
The next phase of the Microplastic Project is to make a more conclusive measurement of how much microplastic is in the Bay and where it travels.
“We honestly don’t know where they’re going,” says Meg Sedlak, a senior program manager with the San Francisco Estuary Institute. “We aspire to address that with our modeling.” The Institute is a nonprofit research center focused on the Bay, Delta, and wetlands.
The article was also associated with a companion KQED radio story.
We welcome you to read about this important research and listen to the microplastics sampling adventure on the "high seas."
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Plastic pollution is gaining global recognition as a threat to the resilience and productivity of ocean ecosystems. However, we are only just beginning to understand the scope and impacts of microplastic particles (less than 5 mm) on coastal and ocean resources, and the San Francisco Bay Area is no exception. A preliminary study of nine water sites in San Francisco Bay, published in 2016, showed greater levels of microplastics than the Great Lakes or Chesapeake Bay.
The RMP has conducted initial studies of microplastic pollution in San Francisco Bay. Findings from a 2015 screening-level RMP study of microplastic pollution in our Bay show widespread contamination at levels greater than other U.S. water bodies with high levels of urban development, the Great Lakes and Chesapeake Bay. Wildlife consume microplastic particles; ingestion can lead to physical harm, and can expose aquatic organisms to pollutants like PCBs that the plastics have absorbed from the surrounding environment.