By: Asma Mahdi
The NOAA Marine Debris Program is pioneering new research in the field of microplastics and looking at new design technologies for crab pots along the west coast region of the country. Here are a couple of projects that are currently taking place:
At the University of California, Davis, researchers are investigating whether microplastic debris is toxic to marine organisms and if toxic impacts can move through the food chain. The study will also look at impacts on the health and survival of the animals exposed to different types of microplastics with and without polychlorinated biphenyls, commonly known as PCBs. The manufacturing of PCBs stopped in the United States in 1977 because of evidence that they build up in the environment and cause harmful health effects. Because they do not break down easily, PCBs are now found widely distributed in our environment and the chemical properties of PCBs cause them to be concentrated up the food chain.
In the Pacific Northwest, the Northwest Straits Foundation is testing five different Dungeness crab pot designs used in the Puget Sound to determine which one has the best escapement rate. Some traps use cotton rot cords that are designed to disintegrate over time and allow the crabs to crawl out, but it doesn’t always work. The group estimates that over 30,000 crabs are killed each year in derelict pots with designs that prevent escape.