As sailboats gathered at the Pointe-Claire Yacht Club, it may have appeared to be a regular Saturday morning, but one boat was gearing up for a very special ride.
“We’re part of the largest microplastic sampling event in history, across all the great lakes,” said former Beaconsfield resident, Rachel Labbé-Bellas.
“We are the eXXpedition, Saint Lawrence crew and we are an all-female sailing crew.”
EXXpedition is a series of all-women voyages.
This series is the Great Lakes 2016 is spearheaded by mission-co-ordinators, Jen Pate and Elaine McKinnon.
The expedition consists of a wave of boats taking off across Canada and the United States, on a mission to fight plastic pollution in our Great Lakes.
“We’re here to sample for microplastics and also just raise awareness about why the Great Lakes matter to us and also, start to think, care and understand a bit about the microplastics that we don’t see in the Great Lakes,” said Bellas.
Microplastics are anything smaller than 5 mm in size.
Today, a large number of our personal care products, like face scrubs and toothpastes, are known to contain thousands of micro-plastics, also called microbeads.
“Unfortunately, the plastic actually acts as a sponge,” she explained.
“So when it’s in a small form, it absorbs all the chemicals. So, it could be absorbing mercury, lead, or any other type of toxic that could be floating in the environment – and fish, are very confused and they will eat this and it will enter our food chain and in the end, we are eating a lot of contaminated fish.”
So on Saturday, sailboats like Bellas’, lead the way on all five Great Lakes.
Bellas said there are good reasons the crews are all female.
“Women are usually, tend to be, under-represented in science, in technology, and in sailing as well,” said Bellas.
“We wanted to give them that type of space to voice and show their skills.”
One of the women who joined Bellas on board was McGill PhD graduate, Monica Granados.
“What this expedition allows us to do is connect with the general public and let them know ‘hey, this is what your water looks like, this is how our daily habits are affecting our waterways and what can we do together as a general public and as scientists to trying to minimize the impact we have on our local waterways’,” she said.
Read more about Rachel Labbe Bellas and the eXXpedition here.