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‘It is very troubling’: microplastics, other pollutants to be focus of studies funded by Ottawa


The federal government announced $2.7 million in funding on Monday towards studying how contaminants like pesticides, anti-sea lice drugs and microplastics impact aquatic life.

That announcement is good news for Peter Ross, vice-president of research for Ocean Wise, who says research in ocean environments has been cash strapped for years.

“It’s been a long time since governments have paid much attention to ocean and freshwater environments,” Ross told On The Coast guest host Michelle Eliot. “I think it’s a very good sign that we’re on the right course.”

The money is being distributed to 13 non-profit groups and universities for various research projects. Ocean Wise is one of the beneficiaries and will use the funds to study microplastics in the Pacific Ocean.

‘Front and centre’ issue

Ross says the issue of microplastics is “front and centre” for the organization, which has 12 staff and graduate student researchers devoted to studying it.

He says the latest research on the issue has helped reveal just how widespread the problem is in all three of Canada’s oceans.

He says Ocean Wise’s plans in the near term are to look at where the plastics are coming from and what impact they have on marine life ingesting them — especially creatures lower on the food chain.

“It is very topical, it is very troubling, and certainly as a scientist I’m very concerned this is a topic, a pollutant, that escaped scientific scrutiny until fairly recently,” he said.

Ross says one positive development in the issue he sees is a widespread public concern about the issue of microplastics and a hunger for something to be done about them.

With files from CBC Radio One’s On The Coast

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