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Lake Superior north shore cleanup a success, say marine conservationists

Jun 20, 2018 06:52AM ● By Editor
Nurdles are small plastic pellets that can be harmful to fish and other aquatic animals due to their resemblance to fish eggs. (Parks Canada / Supplied)

By Matt Prokopchuk · CBC News · June 20, 2018 

Officials with the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area say they're pleased with recent cleanup efforts in a north shore bay but pollution prevention is key going forward.

Earlier in June, the conservation area, along with staff from Parks Canada and over two dozen local volunteers spent an afternoon at Mountain Bay, which is located between Nipigon and Rossport, east of Thunder Bay.

The goal was to pick up as many small plastic pellets — called nurdles — as possible that have washed up on shore. The small plastic spheres are essentially the raw materials from which all plastic products are made.

"It's good that we were able to clean up this area so we want to be able to remove as much of the plastic from the lake [as possible]," said Sarah Shiruff, a spokesperson for the Lake Superior National Marine Conservation Area.

"It can be very frustrating and this is something that, as the volunteers were helping, either sitting down and picking up the nurdles by hand or using brooms or sieves, it could be really, really frustrating," she continued.

"So we want to focus on preventing them from getting in the lake in the first place because having to clean them up by hand afterwards can be frustrating."
Mountain Bay is between Nipigon and Rossport, east of Thunder Bay. (Parks Canada / Supplied)

Since transportation of the small pellets is integral in ensuring various plastic items are made, Shiruff said reducing plastic use can eventually help reduce their numbers in the water. She also pointed to other steps people can take, like being mindful of what ends up in the water when using a boat.

The nurdles also closely resemble fish eggs, meaning that a number of aquatic species will eat them.

Officials said volunteers and other participants gathered over 145,000 nurdles during this year's cleanup, along with other plastic debris. That equalled filling up three, 30-litre bins.

People who helped came from the Mountain Bay area, Nipigon, Terrace Bay, and Thunder Bay. 

Shiruff said another cleanup elsewhere on Lake Superior is being planned for the fall as part of an international event called the International Coastal Cleanup. She said a site for that effort still has to be selected.

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