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Local group receiving $1M to fight Gulf Coast nurdle problem

Posted at 7:08 PM, Dec 04, 2019
and last updated 2019-12-04 20:14:05-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — With the help of The University of Texas Marine Science Institute, an organization based out of Port Aransas has been approved of $1 million to help remove nurdles along the Gulf Coast.

What is a nurdle? A nurdle is a microplastic.

“Plastics makers ship nurdles all over the world, where they are melted down and molded into everything from toys to packaging, and many have wound up in the ocean and on beaches,” says Jace Tunnell, director of the Mission-Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve.

Microplastics in the ocean can be quite harmful.

"Often, wildlife such as sea turtles, fish and birds mistake nurdles and other microplastics for food and ingest them. Nurdles are also known to absorb harmful chemicals such as DDT, an insecticide, that has been linked to problems in animals including humans." says a press release from The University of Texas Marine Science Institute.

Since graduating with a Bachelors degree in Vertebrate Biology and a Masters degree in Marine Biology from Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi, Tunnell has a made a big impact in the fight against nurdles on our beaches. What started as a few short surveys on a Facebook group, he organized Nurdle Patrol; which is now a team of thousands of citizen scientists who are tracking data by collecting and counting nurdles and documenting where they are found.

Nurdle Patrol was spearheaded by The University of Texas at Austin’s Marine Science Institute and its Mission - Aransas National Estuarine Research Reserve. According to their website, they have collected 235,182 so far.

“This is a tool to give regulatory agencies the information they need to do further investigations to see where nurdles are coming from," Tunnell said.

Recently, a plastics company called Formosa Plastics was sued to the tune of $50 million for polluting the Gulf Coast with billions of nurdles. As part of that settlement, U.S. District Judge Kenneth M. Hoyt is making Formosa Plastics provide $1 million to support the efforts of Nurdle Patrol.

You can get involved with their efforts by visiting to learn more.