June 18, 2014: The bi-national committee of advisors to the Great Lakes Fishery
Commission recently passed a resolution that calls on state, provincial and federal
governments in the United States and Canada to prohibit the sale by 2015 of cosmetic
or personal care products containing plastic microbeads. Advisors expressed concern
that fish and wildlife mistake microbeads for food, which harms health. The resolution
supports legislative action pending in several Great Lakes states.
Advisors noted that the cosmetic and personal-care product industry produces many
facial scrubs, body washes, toothpastes and other products that contain tiny plastic
abrasives called "microbeads". These multicolored, very small, buoyant pieces of
plastic are rinsed down the drain, passed through wastewater treatment plants, and
discharged into waters. The first open water survey of the Great Lakes for plastic,
conducted in July 2012, found some of the highest concentrations of microplastic
ever recorded on earth, and microbeads from personal care products made up the majority
of microplastic under 1 millimeter in size [1: Eriksen, M. et.al. (2013). Microplastic
pollution in the surface waters of the Laurentian Great Lakes. Marine Pollution
Bulletin. 77, 177-182].
Once microbeads are discharged into the water, they persist - that is, they do not
break down or degrade over time - and collect toxic chemical pollutants on their
surface. The committee - representing recreational and commercial fishing, Aboriginal
communities, public-at-large, academia, and state agencies - were concerned about
the impact microbeads have on the fisheries of the Great Lakes. These toxic-coated
microbeads are mistaken for food by organisms throughout the aquatic food web, where
they can cause physical blockages and internal damage and serve as a pathway for
dangerous pollutants to enter the food web and contaminate the fish and wildlife.
Advisors pointed out that plastic microbeads are not an essential component of cosmetics
and personal care products and a number of companies have never used them in their
products. Other companies have voluntarily committed to stop using microbeads in
their products. Natural, safer materials such as ground almonds, oatmeal, and sea
salt provide a comparable abrasive "scrubbing" quality and do not pose a threat
to the marine environment.
"The concentrations of microplastics in the Great Lakes rival the highest concentrations
of microplastics present in the massive 'floating garbage dumps' that are found
in the middle of the world's oceans," said John Jackson, Chair of the Canadian Committee
of Advisors. "Every time we wash our face or brush our teeth with a product that
contains microbeads, we are contributing to this wasteland. This is a key example
of where individual action can make a difference - Great Lakes citizens not only
have an opportunity to do the right thing, we have a duty to stop buying and using
"We were unanimous," said U.S. committee chair Denny Grinold from the Michigan Charter
Boat Association. "Advisors agreed that microbeads present a real and serious problem
for the Great Lakes fisheries. We do not know yet how best to remove them from the
system, what the long-term impacts will be on the health of the fish populations,
or if there are human-health implications, but we do know that we can prevent more
microbeads from entering our Great Lakes - we can stop this problem at the source
and that is just what this resolution aims to do."
A copy of the resolution is available on the Advisors' web page: www.glfc.org/staff/resol2014_2.pdf.
Great Lakes Fishing Interests Urge Immediate Replacement of the Straits of Mackinac
Binational advisory committee deeply concerned about condition of aging pipeline
The bi-national committee of advisors of the Great Lakes Fishery Commission urged
immediate replacement of the Enbridge Line 5 pipeline that runs through the Straits
of Mackinac between Lakes Michigan and Huron. The call - which came in the form
of a binational resolution, approved during the advisors' annual meeting in Chicago,
Illinois - joins a growing chorus of concern, information requests, and calls for
action from Great Lakes organizations, congressional members, and citizens.
The committee - representing recreational and commercial fishing, Aboriginal communities,
public-at-large, academia, and state agencies - stressed that a spill anywhere in
the Great Lakes Basin, particularly in the Straits of Mackinac, would have far-reaching
implications on fishery restoration, fish habitat, the health of the ecosystem,
and the recovery of the Great Lakes, affecting the economic and physical well-being
of millions of people who live, work, recreate in the basin and subsist on Great
The Enbridge Energy Inc. owned pipeline, Line 5, which runs beneath the Mackinac
Bridge in the Straits of Mackinac, is more than sixty years old and consists of
2 parallel pipelines that are each 4 miles long and 20 inches in diameter. Recent
underwater inspection of the pipeline conducted by the National Wildlife Federation
showed the pipeline is structurally unsupported in many areas and is exhibiting
signs of significant deterioration. The area where the pipeline runs under the Straits
is especially sensitive and vulnerable as it is subjected regularly to intense environmental
stressors such as fast-moving currents and frequent ice-cover. Advisors noted that
each day, 22 million gallons of crude oil, primarily tar sands (called bitumen),
and natural gas fluids flow through Enbridge's Line 5 pipeline. The pipeline was
not initially constructed to transport diluted bitumen (called dilbit) which requires
higher pressure than conventional crude oils to move through the line; the higher
pressures increase the likelihood of corrosion and ruptures on the pipeline. Enbridge
recently began pumping 10% more oil through Line 5 and has proposed a series of
small pipeline projects that will further increase the daily load by 1.8 million
"An oil spill due to a pipeline rupture at the junction of the two lakes would be
catastrophic," said U.S. committee chair Denny Grinold from the Michigan Charter
Boat Association. "An Enbridge-owned pipeline was responsible for the spill in the
Kalamazoo River in 2010 that absolutely devastated that ecosystem. The spill, which
is the largest on record in the lower forty-eight states, resulted in roughly one
million gallons of dilbit being released into the river and an estimated one billion
U.S. dollars for clean-up, which is still not completed. Perhaps the scariest part
of the Kalamazoo River spill is that a federal review found that the spill was a
result of Enbridge failing to repair known pipeline defects and a lax government
oversight of pipeline maintenance and spill-response plans. We absolutely cannot
afford to let this happen again, especially in an area where containment and clean-up
would be nearly impossible."
"The resolution reflects widespread agreement across two countries that an oil spill
in the Straits of Mackinac is not just a Michigan crisis or a U.S. crisis—it's an
international crisis," said John Jackson, Chair of the Canadian Committee of Advisors.
"This pipeline is old, unsafe, and being used in a manner for which it was not constructed.
It needs to be replaced immediately using the best technology that is available.
An oil spill from Line 5 is a devastation that can be avoided and we, as stewards
of the Great Lakes, have an obligation to act now before it is too late."
A copy of the resolution is available on the Advisors' web page: www.glfc.org/staff/resol2014_1.pdf.
About the Great Lakes Advisory Committee
The Committee of Advisors consists of both U.S. and Canadian representatives, from
First Nation, commercial, recreational, academic, agency, and public fishery interests
in the Great Lakes Basin. Advisors provide advice to the Great Lakes Fishery Commission;
U.S. advisors are nominated by the State Governors, and appointed by the commission.
Canadian advisors are nominated by the Ontario Minister of Natural Resources and
appointed by the Minister of Fisheries and Oceans Canada.
[Editor's Note: Enbridge is the company to whom the Canadian Federal Government just
gave permission to build the
Northern Gateway Pipeline. The Enbridge record is not exactly a confidence