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Microplastics and shellfish aquaculture: investigating presence, extent, potential impacts and mitigation measures



Macroplastics originating from recreational, commercial, and industrial activities and products, including netting, fencing, and rafts used in aquaculture and fishing industries, have the potential to degrade into microplastics (small plastic debris <5 mm) which present a potential risk to marine animals. Filter-feeding bivalves (like oysters and mussels) are natural bioaccumulators for water-borne particles and pollutants, which may present possible implications for the human consumption of seafood.

This project will determine the presence, types and extent of microplastics in shellfish and their surrounding environment, and investigate the impacts of microplastics on animal health and function. Findings from this study will help contribute to possible mitigation strategies.

Microplastics represent an emerging topic of concern in the world’s oceans, in terms of both direct pollution and impacts on ecosystem health. This project represents a timely activity that will inform potential management options to reduce any potential impacts through Industry best practices. Research results will also aid the shellfish aquaculture industry as a whole in understanding and monitoring possible impacts of microplastics to ensure sustainable production while maintaining optimal shellfish health.

Program Name

Aquaculture Collaborative Research and Development Program (ACRDP)


2015 - 2018

Principal Investigator(s)

Chris Pearce
Research Scientist, Fisheries and Oceans Canada
Pacific Biological Station, Pacific Region

Team Member(s)

Sarah Dudas, Centre for Shellfish Research, Vancouver Island University

Helen Gurney-Smith, Centre for Shellfish Research, Vancouver Island University

Peter Ross, Ocean Pollution Research Program, Vancouver Aquarium

Collaborative Partner(s)

Roberta Stevenson, British Columbia Shellfish Grower’s Association

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