Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area

The increasing amount of plastic pollution in oceans and lakes is of concern, and Lake Superior is no exception. Although Lake Superior may be in better condition than some other waters, there are problems with plastics; as an example, a train derailment west of Rossport in the winter of 2008 spilled an undetermined amount of plastic beads (known as nurdles) into the lake, which continue to show up on local beaches.

In order to better understand the scope of concern, Resource Conservation staff purchased a surface trawl net designed to monitor occurrence and trends of marine debris, particularly microplastics. A custom designed outrigger attachment was built to position the net beside the boat for trawl runs, avoiding the wake.

The trawl was used to complete four transects, in different areas. Not a lot of plastics were encountered, but there were some pieces found, including nurdles, south of the outer barrier islands (south of Fluor Is). Trawls in more protected areas did not find plastics, although several small pieces were incidentally found and collected in a sheltered bay of Fluor Island. Also, during the clean-up at Gravel Bay / Mountain Bay Road beach, nurdles and other plastics were encountered. Methods are under review to obtain the best representation of plastics and other marine debris (considerations of winds, currents, etc).

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