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How is Plastic Pollution Affecting Marine Animals?

Plastic pollution is affecting our marine life… 

The land of earth is what we call home, whereas it is essential not to forget the array of species that call the oceans seas of the earth their home. Around the world, plastic pollution affecting marine animals is unequivocally clear… but on what level?

Marine life all over the world are succumbing to the poison that is plastic, invading their homes and they succumb to it every single day.  

Examples from the largest predator of earth, a sperm whale that was found washed up dead on the shores of Spain in February 2018, with 64 pounds of plastic – nearly 30 kilograms of indigestible plastic, to a harbour seal pup found dead on the Scottish island of Skye, its intestines fouled by microplastics and a small piece of the plastic wrapper.

How does plastic affect marine life?

As per the United Nations, it’s recorded that at least 800 species of marine mammals worldwide are unfortunately affected by marine debris. Further studies found that a staggering 80 per cent of that litter is plastic. It’s estimated that up to 8 million metric tons of plastic end up in the ocean each year — what could be compared to a dump truck load of rubbish being poured into the ocean each minute. 

Marine life that contributes to marine food chains such as fish, seabirds, ocean turtles, and marine warm-blooded creatures can get caught in plastic pollution, causing entanglement or ingest plastic pollution and smaller microplastics, causing ingestion – which may lead to suffocation, infection or starvation.

People are not invulnerable to this danger either: While plastics are assessed to take up to several years to completely deteriorate, some of them separate a lot faster into small particles, which thus end up in the fish we eat. And the cycle continues.

Plastic pollution affecting marine life

Why do marine mammals eat plastic?

It’s estimated that 56% of the planet’s marine mammals including whale, dolphin and porpoise species have consumed plastic, however, to comprehend why you need to consider their reality and perspective of their surroundings as they do.

When a plastic bag is floating in the water in a balloon-like state, it can be easily mistaken for something like a squid of jelly, or other prey, to the seals, turtles and marine mammals that hunt these types of animals.

Research studies show that more than half of ocean turtles worldwide have ingested plastic. Some starve in the wake of doing as such, mistakenly believing they have eaten enough because their stomachs are full.  On numerous seashores, plastic contamination is unavoidable to such an extent that it’s influencing turtles’ generation rates by changing the temperatures of the sand where hatching happens. An ongoing report found that ocean turtles that ingest only 14 bits of plastic have an expanded danger of death. The youthful are particularly in danger since they are not as specific as to what their seniors about what they eat and will in general float with flows, similarly as plastic does.

Even species that don’t recognize prey by sight aren’t protected or safe. Members of the porpoise species, toothed whales, and numerous types of dolphin, utilize a complex sonar-type strategy called echolocation to discover their prey. Unnatural items, for example, plastic waste confound this sonar and are incorrectly interpreted as food.

It’s conceivable that such a misstep prompted the demise of a pregnant pygmy sperm whale found beached on a seashore close to Melbourne, Australia. This whale was euthanised after unsuccessful rescue attempts, and an examination uncovered a stomach clogged up with ingested plastic.

Plastic pollution affecting marine life

What happens when marine mammals get affected by plastic pollution?

The alternate way that plastic pollution affects ocean mammals is through entanglement. Furthermore, ‘ghost fishing’ the phenomenon when abandoned fishing gear continues to trap unaware marine life is one of the leading causes of deaths.

An expected 640,000 tons of the 8 million tons of plastic that enter the ocean every year is ghost fishing equipment. This gear that is either intentionally casted off or washed from boats or shorelines. 

Left to glide in the sea it proceeds with its fatal reason, entrapping unwary marine animals who venture too close. 

Like humans, some marine mammals aren’t able to breathe underwater. This causes marine mammals to drown and suffocate underwater. Being trapped in fishing nets and plastic is another leading cause of death for our marine animals.

The outcomes from recuperated ghost nets are decimating and show that it isn’t just well-evolved creatures that are in danger. Here are the consolidated results of two ghost nets taken from the waters around the Tiwi Islands and Darwin individually:

  • Three skeletons believed to be dolphins. 
  • Three dolphinfish (mahi-mahi). 
  • Two turtles. 
  • Nine blacktip reef sharks.
  • Numerous reef fish. 

Even if the animals are able to move while entangled, their chances of survival aren’t good. 

More uncommon species, for example, the humpback dolphin is found in waters around Australia and Papua New Guinea. Even these animals have been seen with marine trash wrapped firmly around their bodies.

In the event that the plastic isn’t unstuck, it can cause deep cuts into their skin. This results in leaving the creatures open to the danger of fatal diseases or infection. This can happen to any animal.

Furthermore, plastic waste can support the development of microorganisms and pathogens. This is due to the algae that build upon plastic over time. This then makes marine animals are attracted to the microorganisms such as krill, more prone to danger and entanglement.

Another ongoing report where researchers presumed that corals often come into contact with plastic. In these events, corals have an 89 per cent possibility of contracting an infection. Whereas, corals that don’t only have a 4 per cent probability.

Action is required immediately to address this pressing issue of plastic pollution in our oceans. Researchers anticipate that the heaviness of sea plastics will surpass the entire mass of ALL of the fish in the oceans by 2050.

Plastic pollution affecting marine life

How can you help?

Marine warm-blooded creatures, obviously, don’t comprehend the dangers that plastics impose on them. This issue was made by humans, and no one but humans can fix it.

As you can see, plastic pollution affecting marine is a fact and the numbers do not lie, unfortunately. It isn’t fair for all the beloved marine mammals to be left to their demise this way. Plastic is an unnatural phenomenon to them. It disrupts their circle of life, chances for survival, birthing young and evolution. These are animals that we have grown to love, admire and study over our lifetime. We must take a stand today and let positive action create change. Share this blog to your socials, send them to your family, friends and colleagues and spread awareness for marine life. Changing this tide, making a difference and changing the environment for the better begins at an individual level: 

  • Recycle everything you can. 
  • Use your own cutlery, food containers and KeepCups when getting takeaway, rather than using disposable alternatives. 
  • Participate in beach or community clean-ups. 
  • Tell the waiter to ‘hold the straw’ when purchasing drinks. 

Most importantly, pledge to #ReduceYourUse today.

Our Mission

Our mission and first responsibility are to eliminating plastic and ocean pollution affecting all the humans and marine life on the planet.

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Effects of Plastic Pollution on Birds in the Ocean

You probably think that our birds in the skies are safe from the dangers from the plastics on earth. Think again. 

The effects of plastic pollution on birds and marine life around the world has been immeasurable. The global scale of plastic production around the world unfortunately and in evidently ends up in our oceans. Every year, more than 8 million tons of plastic waste is thrown into the sea. Plastic all around the world is left from our cities streets, suburban streets, public streets, land dumps, sewage systems end up to our lakes and rivers. It travels down canal systems, sewage systems, rivers and almost always end up in our oceans. Unfortunately, if we allow the situation to continue as it has been for the past century, the situation will be extremely dire to marine life, seabirds and ecosystem.

How many birds die from plastic pollution in the ocean each year?

According to WWF, there are an estimated 1 million birds per year dying as a result of plastic pollution in the ocean. This stat is, even more, worrisome when we take into consideration how the problem is exponentially getting worse and how quickly it has grown in the past decades. 

According to National Geographic in a 1960 study, there were 5% of seabirds with plastic in their stomachs. Since then, the effects of plastic pollution on birds has catapulted to 80% in 1980.

Furthermore, studies have shown that by “2050, 99% of all seabird species will be ingesting plastic”. Ingestion of plastic isn’t the only contribution from plastic waste that cause death to seabird species. The effects of plastic pollution on birds also causes, ‘entanglement’. This is another cause of death from plastics, further emphasising that awareness needs to be spread to mitigate this issue as soon as possible.

Effects of plastic pollution on birds. Plastic rubbish floating in the ocean.
Photo taken of floating rubbish and plastic pollution in the ocean.

Why do birds eat plastic?

  1. Dimethyl Sulfide

Dimethyl Sulfide, or DMS, is caused by microscopic organisms such as krill or plankton feeding on the algae of plastic debris floating across the ocean. Studies show that DMS is similar to natural scents to tube-nosed birds such as the albatrosses, petrels, and shearwater, follow when hunting for food. This is due to DMS giving away the presence of clouds plankton, which make it intensely alluring to seabirds.

  1. Appearance

Larger and newer pieces of plastics that are newly put and float across the ocean eventually break down into microplastics. These microplastics do not go away and stay afloat at sea as plastic is not biodegradable. As an end result, these small particles of plastics can easily be mistaken for prey and end up consumed by seabirds and marine animals.

  1. They float. 

The light mass of the plastic and especially micro-plastics cause them to stay afloat. The plastic’s lightweight structure is a huge contribution to the problem.

Seabird suffering from entanglement from fishing line. Effects of plastic pollution on birds.
Seabird suffering from entanglement from multiple fishing lines.

What happens to birds that consume plastic?

The plastic consumption for seabirds and its impacts on the animal is dependent on what they actually consume. For instance, if a bird were to consume a sharp plastic object, it could puncture their internal organs, resulting in some birds dying quickly. However, others may die due to starvation as they are not able to process the plastic through their body. Birds that have a stomach filled with plastic feel full,but receive no nutritional benefit.

Furthermore studies have shown that toxic effects of the chemicals that coat plastics also kill seabirds

Another tragedy occurs when adult birds leave their nests in order to hunt to provide food for their chicks. Mistakenly, birds eat plastic that they believe is fish and regurgitate it to their chicks. Juvenile seabird’s smaller stomachs are even less able to deal with the effects of the plastic and many die quickly.

Research photo taken of bird that suffered death from plastic ingestion.
Research photo taken of bird that suffered death from plastic ingestion.

How do birds die from plastic entanglement?

The consumption of plastic is not the only process that kills seabirds. Entanglement is caused by fishing lines, fishing equipment, plastic bags and general plastic waste. This involves seabirds that get stuck in plastic waste, which can cause infection and starvation. To reaffirm, 8 million tonnes of plastic waste enter our oceans every year. With such a large amount of plastic waste entering the world’s ocean, it is almost impossible for birds to avoid getting stuck or ingesting any of the plastic floating and affecting marine life. 

One of the worst contributions to plastic entanglement is abandoned fishing gear. Abandoned fishing gear is caused by traps that are lost throughout the sea during fishing and other activities. This happens on a worldwide scale. The discarded equipment continues to catch birds and wildlife in a phenomenon known as ‘ghost fishing’. The effects of plastic pollution on birds caused by ghost fishing has accounted for one-fifth of all seabird species, affected by entanglement or ingestion of plastic waste.

Plastic bag caught on bird. Another form of entanglement.
Image captured of entangled bird caught on a plastic bag.

What happens to birds that become entangled in plastic?

This is truly dependant of what the situation the bird is in and how the animal has become entangled. However, outcomes may include:

  • Drowning in nets – For gannets, penguins and other birds that dive for their food, becoming caught in underwater plastic will mean they can’t get back to the surface, and so they drown. 
  • Risk of infection – If the plastic is tightly wrapped it can cut the bird, leading to infection. 
  • Losing the ability to move – Being tied by fishing equipment or stuck can mean that birds aren’t able to escape from natural predators or die due to starvation.

Furthermore, when ingested, plastic waste can cause air bubbles to appear in seabird’s stomachs. This causes seabirds that are reliant on diving for their food, unable to do so and therefore die from starvation.

Aftermath photo of bird with a large quantity of plastic in its stomach.
Aftermath image of bird with a large quantity of plastic in its stomach.

What can I do to stop the effects of plastic pollution on birds?

The issue is that plastic takes centuries and even hundreds of years to simply break down. And when broken down, they aren’t actually gone, they’re turned into micro-plastics with is still ingested by seabirds and larger animals such as whales. This isn’t an issue that is going to vanish.

It can be disheartening hearing such large figures and statistics of birds and marine life that have been affected by plastic waste, but individual efforts can truly come a long way. With the action of one individual, can come with massive ripple effects and massive action from communities. Here are some of the ideas to minimise the risk of plastic pollution:

  • Use social media to spread awareness to your friends and family. Take the pledge today to #ReduceYourUse
  • Ensure all plastic use is sorted, recycled and reused.
  • Participate in communal and beach clean ups.

Our Mission

Our mission and first responsibility are to eliminating plastic and ocean pollution affecting all the humans and marine life on the planet.

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What Are The Basic Effects Of Having Plastic In Our Ocean

The effects of having plastic in our ocean.

The effects of having plastic in our ocean. People don’t realise the impact plastic has on our environment, agriculture, and the planet. Every single piece of plastic that ends up in our ocean is another step towards making another marine species extinct. A National Geographic study in 2019 determined that there are over 5.25 billion pieces of plastic in the ocean; this adds up to over 265,000 tonnes of plastic floating on the ocean surface.

Following Business Insider article published in 2015, there is a total of 228,450 marine species worldwide, meaning there is 23,026 times more plastic in our ocean than marine species. This ranges from Marine life like seaweeds to blue whales but excludes all multi-celled marine organisms. 

Yet, considering all the statistics written on this topic, it can be understandably frustrating when society continues to live the same lifestyle. We still continue to create all the same man-made single-use plastic to just throw into the environment. We still actively buy products which implement single-use plastics. And we still engage in the recycling behaviour (or lack thereof) which leads to our inevitable demise, which we like to call a single-use death sentence.

After all, plastics kill over 100 million Marine animals each year. To put some perspective behind this, there are only 13 countries out of 195 countries worldwide that have a population of over 100 million people. These numbers, if they were human deaths would account to the population of 11 countries dying every single year. Imagine: next year all the following populations will be extinct: Australia, New Zealand, Ireland, Norway, Finland, Singapore, Switzerland, Denmark, Hungary, Netherlands, Chili. Not because of world hunger or because of internal strife, but because of our war on plastic.

Effects Of Having Plastic In Our Ocean

Effects Of Having Plastic In Our Ocean

What Is The Direct Effect of Plastic In Our Ocean?

Plastic has a huge effect on injuring and killing all types of marine animals like fish, seabirds, whales, sharks, dolphins, turtles and almost every other animal. If the plastic in the ocean doesn’t kill an animal it can cause injuries which make them more vulnerable to other species, that they normally wouldn’t be. 

Marine plastic pollution has directly impacted at least 267 species worldwide, which includes 44% of bird species, 86% of all sea turtle species and 43% of all marine mammal species. The main fatalities on marine animals are normally due to a result of digestion, starvation, suffocation, infection, drowning and exhaustion. (studies found here ‘Clean Water Action’). These are some reasons why we need to know the effects of plastic in our ocean.

Effects Of Having Plastic In Our Ocean

What Happens To The Plastic In The Ocean?

The paramount reason plastic in our lives is due to how intensely tough, versatile, and strong it can be. But due to these core strengths, a serious issue when it comes to plastic decomposing. According to the Daily Sabah plastic decomposition will average between 10 and 1000 years. Considering the most popular plastic, plastic bottles we can see a decomposition rate of 450 years. Yet, plastic bottles are still being bought at an exponential rate of 460 billion each year. (Mind Blowing!)

When considering the process of plastic decomposing, it begins breaking down slowing decreasing into microscopic particles. During this process of the plastic breaking down we have marine species of all sizes from whales to microorganisms feeding on this plastic.

 

Effects Of Having Plastic In Our Ocean, Fish Eating Plastic for us humans to take all the chemicals and toxins they have digested into our bodies as well.

Is It Bad To Be Eating Fish That Have Had Plastic In Their Systems? 

The short answer is yes, digesting plastic releases chemicals and toxins through the body that are extremely unhealthy for any human or animal to digest.

For example, The smallest fish and marine animals feed on decomposing plastic. This is obviously is unhealthy and puts toxins and chemicals in their body that can not be handled. These smaller fish and marine animals get eaten through the natural food chain by bigger fish and marine animals. This then causes these bigger animals to be feeding on also on their own plastics, as well as the unhealthy contaminated smaller fish that have also been feeding on chemicals and toxins through the plastic. We then fish the seas globally taking marine animals for our own human consumption. Humans end up eating is a marine animal that has been feeding on toxins and chemicals. This makes the meet extremely unhealthy for us to be eating. It is passing all of the bad toxins into the body of whoever then eats it.

Our Mission

Our mission and first responsibility are to eliminating plastic and ocean pollution affecting all the humans and marine life on the planet.