Why is the seafood we eat contaminated with plastic?

Marine biologist on plastic pollution & how we can protect our oceans

By Molly Gluck

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Image source: Rotjan Lab

The ocean covers more than 70 percent of the surface of our planet — and about 97 percent of the Earth’s water can be found in our oceans, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Despite the ocean’s critical role on our planet and in our daily lives, there are so many factors around our relationship with and impact on marine life that we overlook. For example, did you know that all of the ocean’s food chains — many of them leading to our own dinner plates — are now contaminated by plastic? And did you know that you are part of this problem?

Marine biologist Randi Rotjan and her team at the Rotjan Lab took to Reddit to shed light on global change in oceans, how humans are harming the ocean and its ecosystems — and what we can do to help. Here are the top eight takeaways from the discussion.

1) Conservation efforts have an impact.

We all contribute to plastic pollution in the ocean as well as many other stressors on marine life, but the good news is that we all can help! In the words of Randi, one person can truly change the world.

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Live link to NPR article referenced above.

2) We can’t fix problems that we don’t know or care about.

Randi highlights that education and awareness are the two most important factors contributing to long-term preservation and health of our oceans.

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3) Microplastics, defined.

What is a microplastic? Randi explains below.

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Image source: Rotjan Lab

4) Microplastics would win a bar fight with coral reefs.

A microplastic and a coral reef walk into a bar…

Although the bar fight is hypothetical, the actual outcome for coral reefs is real.

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5) A large emphasis needs to be put on reducing rather than recycling.

There are many easy ways to limit the amount of single-use plastic in our daily lives.

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6) Plastic straws can be a poster child for tackling the larger plastic problem.

Although plastic straws are less than 1 percent of the plastic contamination in our oceans, they are a great way to begin the conversation about plastic pollution.

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7) You don’t want to love a coral reef to death.

Even though beautiful pictures of coral reefs could be great for your Instagram feed — and are important for sharing the beauty of marine life with others — there are some places that should remain untouched (and unphotographed).

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8) Rural and urban marine ecosystems face different stressors.

Marshes are increasingly being incorporated into urban design to help reduce pollution.

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For additional commentary by Boston University experts, follow us on Twitter at @BUexperts. Follow Randi Rotjan on Twitter at @RandiRotjan and follow the Biology Department at Boston University at @BU_Biology on Twitter.

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Cutting-edge research and commentary out of Boston University, home to Nobel laureates, Pulitzer winners and Guggenheim Scholars. Find an expert: bu.edu/experts

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