Micro beads contamination may shut many beaches down

By Taroi Black

Te Arawa Fisheries chief executive Chris Karamea Insley says news there are plastic beads in Tuatua, Tuangi and Pipi across Bay of Plenty is a big “wakeup call”.

The research was conducted by masters science student Anita Lewis from the University of Waikato, who found extremely high levels of microplastic in every sediment sample she made.

Karamea Insley says iwi must act swiftly to address this matter given “50% of commercial fishing boats” are owned by Maori, ensuring the environment is on the same page as business on sustainability.

“We can expect our beaches to be closed. So that's really one of the ways that keeping our whanau safe away from some of that pollution,” he says.

“The longer-term solution is to actually stop that stuff from getting into the sea and rivers in the first place.”

'In the food chain'

The assessments of sediment samples Lewis made were in her hometown of Tauranga and Maketu, Ohiwa, Opotiki. Her research was then presented to the New Zealand Marine Sciences Society conference.

“Kaimoana (seafood) gathering in New Zealand is common practice and this research is showing microplastics and nano-plastics are now bioaccumulating in our food chain,” Lewis says.

“While filtering large pieces of plastic, the membranes in the treatment plants also act like abrasives on small microplastics, making them even smaller and turning them into nano-plastics as they go through the system.”