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No traces of microplastics in scallops

Natasha Kumar By Natasha Kumar Mar6,2024

No traces of microplastics in the scallops

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Sea scallops eliminate plastic microparticles within hours or even days. (Archive photo)

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While its environment is increasingly subject to the presence of plastic microparticles, the scallop manages to eliminate those it ingests, demonstrates a study by the Institute of Marine Sciences (ISMER) of the University of Quebec at Rimouski (UQAR).

The results, published in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin (New window) , should delight lovers of the mollusk with its firm and sweet flesh. There is not an automatic conclusion that animals are contaminated and suffer from the presence of microplastics, says ecotoxicologist Émilien Pelletier.

The scallop is at the heart of the study, which took place over a little more than three years because of its importance in the fishing industry of eastern Canada. The mollusc is also a good indicator of pollution. They feed on all the particles found in the water, so they are a very good water filter, explains professor and researcher Youssouf Djibril Soubaneh.

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Professor-researcher Youssouf Djibril Soubaneh in a laboratory where microalgae are produced.

Scallops caught in the St. Lawrence were transported to the scientific laboratory tanks where they remained in conditions similar to those of the river.

During three months, the scallops in the laboratory were fed three times a week with microalgae, their main food, but also with polystyrene particles. This is the phase of exposure to a contaminant.

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For the next three months, the researchers only gave them microalgae to eat. During this depuration period, we looked at how the scallop had the capacity to get rid of or eliminate these microplastics, indicates Mr. Soubaneh, who is a specialist in the distribution of contaminants and responsible for the project. This process was carried out using several sampling sequences.

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Scallops were caught in the river and transported to the ISMER laboratories where they were fed microalgae and microplastics for three months .

Researchers are able to track particles in the scallop's digestive system. Our microplastics synthesized here contain a radioactive marker. In fact, it is carbon 14, mentions professor emeritus at ISMER, Émilien Pelletier. During a process that can be compared to an x-ray, we can see the general shape of the scallop and each of the organs that contain the microplastics, he adds.

The study showed that plastic particles remain in the digestive system for a few hours or even a few days before being expelled as waste. They are not distributed in the mantle, in the other organs and especially not in the adductor muscle, the one which is edible, explains Mr. Pelletier.

Scallops, like many other water-filtering bivalves, have actually learned to get rid of particles that are not digestible and have no no nutritional benefit.

A quote from Émilien Pelletier, professor emeritus of the Institute of Marine Sciences

The researchers went even further by studying what happens to scallop waste, i.e. its excrement containing microplastic particles. They found that detritivores like gammarids consume them in turn.

They were taken up and rejected again, exclaims Émilien Pelletier. These microparticles do not disappear like that in the environment, but at the very least, what we have seen is that they do not remain in organisms, adds the specialist in molecular ecotoxicology in coastal environments.

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Professor emeritus in molecular ecotoxicology in coastal environments, Émilien Pelletier

The research team also worked with the blue mussel, this time adding metals considered toxic in plastic microparticles. Same result: mollusc tissues do not retain metals significantly.

Professor Youssouf Djibril Soubaneh hopes to eventually extend the research to shellfish and fish. We were thinking of a fish like arctic char, he declares. Salmonids are very sensitive to the environment and the advantage we have is that it is very well known, we have experts here on this, adds Émilien Pelletier.

Fisheries and Oceans Canada funded the research project which began in October 2020. Nearly $300,000 was awarded to the team.

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Natasha Kumar

By Natasha Kumar

Natasha Kumar has been a reporter on the news desk since 2018. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining The Times Hub, Natasha Kumar worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my 1-800-268-7116

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