Plastics in ocean harm oysters


Oyster reef at about mid-tide off fishing pier at Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina. Image via Jstuby at Wikimedia Commons.

When waste plastics – like polystyrene – find their way into bodies of water, they degrade into microscopic particles known as microplastics. These tiny particles range from about 2-6 micrometers in width, which is up to about 0.0002 inch, or less than a fifth of the width of a human hair. Industrial processes, clothing and waste plastic, and cosmetics in sewer water all contribute to a massive influx of the plastic particles into lakes and oceans. A particular concern is whether filter feeding aquatic life – such as as clams, oysters, barnacles, corals, sea squirts, and sponges – will be harmed from ingesting these plastics. Few studies have shown a direct effects on marine animals, but now a new study, published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, does find a negative impact from plastics on the reproductive health of oysters.
Rossana Sussarellu and colleagues from France and Belgium performed some simple yet effective experiments to the role of plastics on the eating and reproductive behavior of these filter feeders.
The experiments consisted of raising oysters in the lab with simulated ocean water, with and without microplastics.