Photo by: Naja Bertolt Jensen
Oceans are home to some of the most beautiful places on earth. They house millions of animal species, affect weather patterns and support numerous human populations by providing food. Our oceans are magnificent natural resources that are unfortunately becoming more and more endangered by plastic pollution every year.
Read on to learn more about the impact of plastics on sea life and what you can do to prevent harmful plastic pollution.
How Does Plastic Get Into the Ocean?
It is safe to say that you probably don’t sort your plastics into specific containers to drive them to the closest beach and dump them in the surf. Even though you might recycle whenever you can by sending waste at the nearest recycling plant, plastic can still get into the ocean and harm wildlife.
Wind and rainwater carry litter out to sea through drains and roadways. Anything you might flush down the toilet, like cotton balls or sanitary products, can also end up in the ocean. Experts estimate that 300 million plastic bags circulate into the Atlantic ocean every year alone, all because people throw away recyclable products, flush plastics or litter.
How Does Plastic Affect Sea Creatures?
Many people picture a plastic to-go cup or straw floating on the waves and imagine sea creatures swimming away from the unrecognizable items. The truth is that plastic drastically affects wildlife in a few key ways.
It Damages or Kills Hungry Sea Life
Sea creatures are always on the hunt for food. When fish or sea turtles see a tiny chunk of plastic floating around that might catch the sunlight or dazzle them with bright colors, they might swallow it whole, mistaking it for food. Laysan albatrosses in the North Pacific feed their chicks 5 tons of plastic annually, resulting in many albatrosses dying at a young age because they can’t digest the plastics that they thought was food.
Everytime wildlife dies from eating plastic pollution, it endangers the entire species’ food and reproduction chains. Because of this, more sea species will become endangered or at risk of extinction as more plastic fills the seas if current pollution trends continue.
It Entangles Marine Life
Plastic can also harm marine life by entangling them in netting, fishing lines and other single use plastics. Soda bottle rings might hook around a sea turtle’s neck and arms, preventing it from swimming away from predators. One researcher in Tokyo found plastic waste every three minutes while kayaking across the ocean with his team. As the plastic drifts into expansive mounds due to currents, they become a greater risk of trapping and killing animals that support the world’s food chain and ecosystem.
It Pollutes Coral Reefs
Microplastics are an especially dangerous threat to marine life that relies on microscopic food. Coral reefs protect shorelines from erosion and support numerous aquatic species. When plastic pollution breaks down into microplastics, coral polyps eat the microplastics and die or sicken the surrounding reef.
Larger chunks of plastic might collide with corals and cause abrasions, increasing the chance of bacterial infections that destroy the reef. Without corals, many aquatic creatures would lose their homes and access to primary sources of food. Communities that depend on these reef-based fish for food could face difficulties in keeping up with their fishing needs as a consequence.
What Can People Do About Plastic Pollution?
There are a few ways people can help reduce the impact of plastic on sea life.
1.You should always recycle responsibly by sorting waste and taking it to the closest recycling plant.
2.Reduce your plastic use whenever possible, like exchanging plastic toothbrushes for bamboo alternatives or plastic bags for silicone baggies.
3.You can also volunteer with local clean-up groups that pick trash out of rivers and beachfront zones. Every piece of plastic that someone pulls from the water is one less threat to the many oceanic creatures who suffer from this ongoing pollution.
Consider the Impact of Plastic on Sea Life
Plastic grocery bags, to-go boxes, cutlery and other single-use plastics may seem harmless, but they can create significant environmental harm after they’re no longer useful and thrown away. Now that you know more about the impact of plastic on sea life, you can make strategic and informed choices to reduce your waste and make the world a healthier place for people and marine life.
Jane is the editor-in-chief and founder of Environment.co. She is passionate about helping people understand the importance of sustainability and actionable steps to live a greener lifestyle.
Sea Going Green works with clients in the marine tourism industry to measure and reduce their environmental footprints including their usage of single-use plastics replacing them with the newest sustainable alternatives.
Oceans are home to some of the most beautiful places on earth. They house
millions of animal species, affect weather patterns and support numerous
human populations by providing food. Our oceans are magnificent natural
resources that are unfortunately becoming more and more endangered by
plastic pollution every year.
Read on to learn more about the impact of plastics on sea life and what you
can do to prevent harmful plastic pollution.Read MoreEducationBlog – Sea Going Green