Shellfish and shellfish harvesting are both important to Oregon. Shellfish species include mollusks; included in the phylum Mollusca is the class Bivalvia. Bivalves are species that are laterally compressed and have a two-part, hinged shell. Bivalves include clams, scallops, mussels, and oysters.
Microplastics are defined as plastic particles that are smaller than 5 millimeters. They can be bits of plastic that have broken off of larger plastic debris or microbeads, which are small pieces of polyethylene added to health and beauty products.
How are bivalves and microplastics connected? Well, most bivalves are filter feeders, meaning that they bring in water and use their gills to capture food, like phytoplankton, and then expel the rest of the water. Microplastics can get trapped in the organism, and seafood consumers end up ingesting the plastics, too. In fact, a recent study demonstrated that 0.36 to 0.47 particles of microplastics per gram are found in mussels and oysters. That can add up to one individual consuming 11,000 plastic particles per year.
It’s important to limit how much plastic we use and to keep our oceans clean. Not only to protect marine ecosystems, but to ensure that we are consuming clean seafood.