Written by Hannah Bull, Emily Walker and Alexa Wiebe (2019 Spring Conservation interns)
15th February 2019 – the date of A Rocha Brooksdale’s contribution to the Great Nurdle Hunt. It was a cold day, with a little rain, when a small group of interns, conservation scientists and volunteers travelled to Boundary Bay, at the mouth of the Little Campbell river, to hunt for some nurdles.
We were led by Aline Nussbaumer, marine ecologist who served on A Rocha’s marine team and the community at Les Courmettes, A Rocha France, and who now is auspiciously living in Vancouver with her husband, David and daughter Miriam, and studying at Regent College.
The name “nurdle” may seem somewhat misleading, as it has the sound of something cute and harmless, but these small pellets are far from harmless. A nurdle is a very small pellet of plastic which serves as raw material in the manufacture of plastic products. These pellets are shipped around the world for our ever-increasing plastics production and often spilt into the ocean during transport: from ships, at port, or through storm drains. Currents and wind disperse them to accumulate on beaches around the world. Unfortunately, nurdles are a big problem – small enough to go unnoticed by many beachwalkers, but the right size to be confused for food by many different organisms, like birds. And they do not go away.
Starting our hunt at the mouth of the river, we spread out along the beach to cover as much area as we could in the given 30 minutes. In some ways, our hunt could be seen as unsuccessful, as we didn’t actually find any nurdles, but this is actually a very positive result. No nurdles is a good thing! However, the beach was not plastic or waste free. We found trash items such as a plastic fork and pieces of synthetic cloths and fabric.
The data we collected on that beach will contribute to an international effort to monitor and understand the distribution of nurdles across the world’s coastlines. This year our hunt was one of 352 nurdle hunts worldwide, including hunts hosted by our international A Rocha family in Kenya, USA (Florida and California), and northern Portugal. Plastic pellets were found on 84% of beaches surveyed and in all continents surveyed (except Antarctica) – really demonstrating the need to address this issue and stop pellet loss at the source.
For more information, visit the Great Nurdle Hunt website at https://www.nurdlehunt.org.uk/ where you can find more detailed information on nurdles and the worldwide data collected.