Plastic pollution

Photo by April Benze.

Plastic pollution is choking our waterways and threatening the health of fish and wildlife. We are collecting plastic and microplastic data as part of our community-oriented water pollution monitoring program. We are collaborating on research projects with universities, governments and experts in the field. We are providing advice to local, regional and federal governments on plastic science, policies, and regulations. We are working with Ocean Diagnostics to support a strong science-based foundation for solutions.

Lots of garbage on a beach.
Photo by Simon Ager.
People working together to take samples of water in jars.
Photo by Alex Harris / Raincoast Conservation Foundation.

Our approach

  • Design a source identification toolbox for plastic pollution; 
  • Working with Indigenous and coastal communities to document plastic pollution and track this back to its source;
  • Conduct research on the source, transport and fate of micro and macroplastics in the environment;
  • Engage in outside-the-box dialogue with industry and governments to support more sustainable design, manufacturing and processes that stem the release of plastics during the life cycle of a product;
  • Support community-oriented outreach and training to support solution-oriented actions and capacity building.

Plastics are everywhere

Plastics from just about every sector can now be found all over the world – from mountain tops to the seafloor, from the Arctic to the Antarctic, and from our homes to the ocean. A modern-day scourge that is blighting remote beaches and shorelines, getting mistaken for food by wildlife, and getting into the foods that nourish us. Whether it’s the structural features of plastic products that suffocate, entangle, or create intestinal blockages – or the endocrine disrupting-contaminants that serve as ingredients of the product (e.g. Bisphenol A or phthalate esters) or as hitchhikers soaked up by plastics in the environment (e.g. PCBs or metals) – plastics are harmful.

Underwater photo of plastic floating near the top of the water.
Chinook salmon swim in a river as seen from head on; epic.
Photo by Fernando Lessa.

The impact on the environment

Without a dramatic re-think, the plastic crisis is here to stay. Despite the best intentions of governments, industry, and consumers to reduce, recycle or re-use, global plastic production continues to enjoy exponential growth. And the unintentional loss to the environment of plastic products and byproducts will continue – plastic bags, bottles, and fishing gear, as well as the discharge of microplastics through domestic and industrial waste. With that will come a constant stream of items that will be mistaken for food but offer zero nutrition, that will entangle wildlife, and will deliver endocrine disruptors to our aquatic food webs. We will document impacts, share findings, and work for change through science, community engagement, and expert advice.

Recent articles

Bird on a tree with a bug in its mouth.

Canada releases the 2030 National Biodiversity Strategy and Nature Accountability Bill –a positive step, but one that falls short 

The final 2030 National Biodiversity Strategy addresses biodiversity-harming subsidies and promises an adaptive management approach, but lacks a clear plan on how it will be implemented.
Drone image of Sumas Prairie farm fields flooded.

New study identifies the cost of restoring the Sumas Xhotsa (Lake) as a tool for reconciliation, climate adaptation, and ecosystem restoration

The research weaves together Indigenous laws with an economic analysis to determine the cost of implementing ‘managed retreat’ as a nature-based solution to flood risk in the Lower Fraser region.
A group of youth walking along a hill.

Reflecting on our eighth year of Salish Sea Emerging Stewards programming  

Our goal is to inspire and train the next generation of conservation stewards through land-based, at-sea, and online programming.
People looking into a net in the middle of one of our breaches in the North Arm Jetty.

Monitoring salmon in our latest breach in the North Arm Jetty

Master’s research is looking into different life histories of sockeye salmon to better understand the impact of Raincoast’s breaches project.
An oil tanker at rest off the BC coast.

Federal promises made for endangered whales during TMX approval are unfulfilled

Southern Resident killer whales need protective orders to facilitate recovery.
Summary of key facts about southeast Alaska interception fisheries

Summary of key facts about southeast Alaska interception fisheries

Last week, Ocean Wise made the decision to remove its recommendation to list salmon from southeast Alaska as sustainable. This removal will be in place until the sustainability of these fisheries is no longer in question.