Oct 4, 2019

Matt Simon from Wired Magazine writes:

San Francisco Bay, like Monterey Bay to its south, is a rare success story in ocean conservation. In the 1960s, three grassroots activists—Sylvia McLaughlin, Kay Kerr, and Esther Gulick—launched Save the Bay, which beat back developers trying to fill in parts of the iconic body of water.

But also like Monterey Bay, San Francisco Bay has all the while been poisoned by an invisible menace—microplastic. Yesterday at a summit in Berkeley on the east shore of the Bay, the San Francisco Estuary Institute and the 5 Gyres Institute presented findings from a three-year survey of microplastics in Silicon Valley’s massive watershed.

The news is grim: an estimated 7 trillion (yes, with a “t”) pieces of microplastic are entering the Bay via stormwater each year, much of the debris likely coming from car tires, with treated wastewater contributing another 17 billion (this time with a “b”) particles, largely from synthetic fibers in clothing. They found particles everywhere—in surface waters, in sediments, in fish. The less grim news: The research inadvertently discovered a way to help stop microplastics from reaching aquatic habitats, and it’s bringing some rigor to the still-nascent field of microplastics research.

Matt Simon
Other Contributors: 
Carolynn Box
Programs and Focus Areas: 
Clean Water Program
Bay Regional Monitoring Program