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Why I’m Sailing the PNW Coast for Microplastic Research

The Sea Dragon Yacht from Above

This July I’ll be sailing from Vancouver to Seattle, by way of Vancouver Island, with eXXpedition to sample the ocean for microplastics.

We’re a diverse group of women with backgrounds in science, conservation, exploration and the arts. There’s a lot to learn from one another and I feel so inspired by these women already. We all believe in eXXpedition’s mission of making the unseen seen and we’ve signed up to do just that!

Going through microplastic samples

Photo courtesy of eXXpedition

Microplastics are an ever growing problem we’re only really starting to understand the long term impacts of. These little pieces of plastic not only affect marine life but our own health as well. They are known to be carriers for toxins as well as leach them as they break down. This includes endocrine disruptors like BPA, PCBs and DEHP to name a few. These chemicals are being linked to a whole host of health issues such as cancer, endometriosis and autoimmune disorders.

In my family alone more of these health issues have been occurring more frequently over the generations. While we’ll never know the causes for sure, it does leave you wondering- we are far more exposed to them now than previous generations. This has definitely been a part of my motivation to sign up for this research project. Onboard we’ll also have the mercury levels in our bodies tested which I’m both interested and frightened to see the results of.

For us and marine animals alike one way these toxins get into our bodies is through the food chain. Microplastics enter the food chain at a zooplankton level, small fish feed on them then a bigger fish comes along and eats a bunch of the small fish ingesting all of the toxins and indigestible plastics every small fish has in it’s system. This is called biological magnification. It is why top of the food chain marine species such as orcas, dolphins and sharks suffer the worst.

Microplastic Samples

Photo courtesy of eXXpedition

This is my biggest motivation for taking on this issue, I hate that we are causing suffering through our mindless consumption. In my years freediving in BC I’ve seen all manners of trash and objects (furniture, hot water tanks- you name it) at the bottom of the ocean having been tossed there by careless people. I want our communities to understand the damage we’re causing and feel empowered to change. I think it’s a whole lot easier to do when you can understand the data and relate your actions to the harm being done.

The data we collect will helps all of us crew members bring awareness to the issue and call for change in our own communities around the world. It will also be fed into partner organization’s databases so it can be accessed by scientist who are researching and reporting on the issue and tech companies working on clean-up solutions.

Launching the Manta Trawl off the Sea Dragon

Photo courtesy of eXXpedition

The biggest thing each of us can do to prevent this issue from getting bigger is stop plastics from entering our waterways in the first place. I realize this is much easier said than done, our lives have become dependant on the convenience plastic provides. I also recognize plastics will always be necessary for institutions like hospitals but we can drastically cut back on our personal use and call for most businesses to do the same.

If you want to challenge yourself to reduce your plastic use sign-up for my newsletter below, you’ll receive a bi-weekly challenge with prompts and tips. We’re taking on one area of related items at a time so you don’t feel overwhelmed by a major lifestyle overhaul.

You can also support our work by heading over to my fundraiser, every painting sold goes to covering the cost of the trip! 

Newsletter Sign-up76 Orcas Art Fundraiser

I would love to hear your thoughts, what do you struggle with the most when trying to cut out plastics?

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