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Treasure Coast scientists researching microplastics in oysters

Posted: 10:25 AM, May 30, 2019
Updated: 2019-05-30 18:10:56-04

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HUTCHINSON ISLAND, Fla. - As researchers test for microplastics in samples of water from the Indian River Lagoon for an ongoing study, they're also planning to look at how those microplastics affect a small animal that has a big effect on our water quality.

"Oysters are a great indicator species because they don’t move. They represent the environment that they’re in," said Vincent Encomio, Florida Sea Grant extension agent for Martin and St. Lucie Counties.

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Treasure Coast scientists are in the middle of a year-long microplastics research project in the Indian River Lagoon with Florida Sea Grant, Florida Oceanographic Society, University of Central Florida and other environmental groups.

“Microplastic is any piece of plastic that’s less than five millimeters in size," Encomio said.

Some surprising preliminary findings include rayon showing up in water samples.

"That could indicate a lot of things, likely coming from clothing," said Glenn Coldren, research associate at Florida Oceanographic Society.

"It’s a reminder that we are having an impact on our environment that we previously didn’t know about," Encomio said.

Scientists will look at oysters specifically because they filter up to 50 gallons of water a day.

"Whatever is in the water is what they’re going to pull in," Encomio.

The research is still ongoing for the next several months.

Those kinds of findings are why Ital Bowls on Hutchinson Island uses compostable products to serve their food.

"We want to save our oceans. We want to save the environment and make it a better place and be able to serve somebody the same great product without something that’s going to harm the environment," said Zach Bucolo, of Ital Bowls.