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The Ocean Wise Plastics Lab is teaming up with the Canada SailGP team to sample microplastics on a global scale. Ocean Wise research scientist, Kevin Landrini, traveled to Saint Tropez, France to meet with the Canadian team and show them how they can help incorporate conservation science into sailing.  

SailGP is an international sailing competition with two components:  

  1. Teams compete in high-speed sailing races on hydrofoil boats, and  
  1. Teams compete to win the Impact League, tracking positive actions the team makes to reduce their environmental footprint and help accelerate inclusivity in sailing.   

SailGP’s ambition is to be the world’s most sustainable and purpose-driven global sports and entertainment platform

SailGP’s Impact League component is where the Ocean Wise Plastics Lab joins in. In September we met with Isabella Bertold, Strategist and Sailor with the Canada SailGP Team to discuss their goals. Understanding a desire to make meaningful impact on the ocean Isabella suggested conducting Shoreline Cleanups, cutting their plastic waste and learning more about seaforestation. And, through our brainstorm we hit on an exciting idea…what if the team could help us better understand ocean microplastics around the world.  We had so many questions that SailGP Canada could help us to answer. Where are microplastics the worst? Is the make-up different in different geographies? How do local laws, customs and practices impact the presence of microplastics along the coast?  

With a broad set of social and environmental criteria in mind, the Ocean Wise Plastics Lab developed a global microplastics sampling method that the SailGP Canada team could conduct for us in each of their race locations. This work, which would not be feasible in terms of time and dollars spent without the sailors, will help the Ocean Wise Plastics Lab to understand the prevalence and source of microplastics at a global scale. Critical information as we seek solutions to this global issue.  

Watch: Kevin Landrini speaks about microplastic sampling in Saint Tropez, France with SailGP team Canada! 

Arriving in Saint Tropez to days before the first SailGP race, Ocean Wise Plastics Lab research scientist, Kevin Landrini, met with the Canadian team and lead a workshop on how to accurately sample for microplastics using a manta net. Just like its name suggests, this net glides through the top of the ocean with the same ease as a manta ray. While doing so, the net collects any microplastics present in the top layer of the water. After collection, the SailGP Canada team stores the water sample and sends it to the Plastics Lab in Vancouver, Canada. The samples are then filtered, analyzed under a microscope to tell us the size, colour, type, and number of microplastics present in Saint Tropez seawater and then analyzed using a fourier transform infrared microscope to determine to type of plastic polymer. 

With Kevin’s help the Canada SailGP team successfully collected a microplastics sample in Saint Tropez and will continue to collect microplastic samples at each race location for the rest of the season. This incredible opportunity shows what a collaborative partnership can achieve with some innovative thinking! Stay tuned to be updated on this research by subscribing to the Ocean Wise newsletter

Posted October 26, 2022 by Ocean Wise

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