PLASTIC Pollution in MARINE LIFE!

The tones of plastic waste left behind on beaches, ranging from plastic liquor bottles to wafer covers, end up in the stomachs of marine life causing severe gastro-intestinal problem

By Minal Sancheti

Plastic products play an essential role in people’s lives around the globe. Plastics are useful because they are durable and light weight. However, the durability of plastic and its ability to float on the water can endanger marine life., Taking a stroll along the beach paints a clear picture of our staggering addiction to the use of plastics. Moreover, the adverse impacts of plastic on marine life can be seen in the animal carcasses lying along the beaches. According to a Plymouth University study, plastic pollution affects 700 different marine species. Other estimates have suggested a death toll of at least 100 million marine animals annually, due to plastic pollution.

The Most Affected

A staggering number of animals die as a result of plastic pollution in the marine environment. The list is so long that we cannot exhaust it in one article. What follows is a brief discussion of impacts on some of the most affected marine creatures

2. Sea Turtles Countless sea turtles are injured or die each year as a result of entanglement in synthetic commercial fishing nets or other types of plastic pollution. As is the case with other marine species, sea turtles may can also ingest small plastic debris, mistaking floating bits of plastic for food. Swallowing plastic waste may obstruct the turtle’s digestive system and can lead to death. Declines seen in populations of sea turtles is the result of a variety of factors including human over-exploitation; however, plastic pollution also adversely affects the turtles. A study conducted in 2013 found that close to 50% of sea turtles had swallowed plastics that contributed to their deaths.
3. Dolphins and Whales As is the case with sea turtles and other marine animals, marine mammals may mistakenly swallow plastic waste thinking they are consuming a potential source of food. Given the enormous size of some whales’ mouths, they may unintentionally ingest plastic debris along with the fish they are engulfing in the water column. Postmortem examinations of some whales have found large amounts of plastic waste in their digestive system. Plastic pollution has adversely affected a number of species of cetaceans. Obstructions may block or injure their stomachs, which can lead to starvation and death. A study in the journal Marine Pollution Bulletin concluded that over half of cetaceans have swallowed plastics with up to 22% of these animals also at risk of losing their lives as a result of plastic pollution.
4. Sea Lions and Seals Plastic debris, including fishing lines, lures, and nets entangle sea lions and seals. Plastic packing bands and bags can also entrap seals and sea lions, leading to injury and even death. Unaware of the danger, young sea lions and may seals play with plastic pieces they find in the ocean. If the debris is swallowed or wraps around body parts, they may suffer serious injuries that can also lead to infections. Rubber and plastic packing bands affect Steller Sea Lions even in remote areas. After eight years of monitoring in British Columbia and Southeast Alaska, one study found plastic debris had entrapped 388 sea lions. Entanglements can be immediately fatal or cause prolonged suffering.
5. Sea Birds Marine debris injures or kills countless sea birds every year. One study found up to 90% of marine birds have ingested plastic debris at least once in their lives. One of the most affected species is the Laysan albatross. Studies have estimated that up to 98% of Laysan albatross have swallowed plastic debris, which can obstruct their digestive systems. They may encounter plastics while feeding as they plunge dive into the ocean to catch fish, squid, and other food. Other seabird species may skim the water surface using their beaks as scoops, picking plastic waste along the way. Plastic pollution also adversely impacts pelicans, gulls, and other marine birds which may mistake plastics for food or find themselves entangled as they dive or fish beneath the surface.

Conclusion

Plastic pollution negatively impacts almost every living organism in the world’s oceans. Because we are the source of plastic pollution, human beings must take action to improve the quality of life for marine animals. We should minimize the use of plastics in our daily lives and recycle the waste as much as possible. When visiting the shore, we need to make sure that plastics are properly disposed of. Even those living in landlocked areas need to be aware that balloons and plastic bags can blow for miles—creating risk for all aquatic creatures and should be safely disposed.
Plastic pollution in marine life is just one of the many issues our planet faces. At Pegasus Foundation, our number one concern is preserving our beautiful Earth and all its species. One way we do this is by helping non-profit organisations create partnerships and work to educate the public as we join forces to build a more conscientious world. Contact us to find out how you can help!

Courtesy: Pegasus Foundation

Plastic Toxins Entering the Oceanic Food Chain
By Gianna Andrews

Different plastics spread throughout the ocean. As Styrofoam breaks into smaller parts, polystyrene components in it sink lower in the ocean, so that the pollutant spreads throughout the sea column.
In fact, not only do the toxins in plastic affect the ocean, but acting like sponges, they soak up other toxins from outside sources before entering the ocean. As these chemicals are ingested by animals in the ocean, this is not good for humans. We as humans ingest contaminated fish and mammals.
There are different types of ways that plastic is dangerous for humans. Direct toxicity from plastics comes from lead, cadmium, and mercury. These toxins have also been found in many fish in the ocean, which is very dangerous for humans. Diethylhexyl phthalate (DEHP) contained in some plastics, is a toxic carcinogen. Other toxins in plastics are directly linked to cancers, birth defects, immune system problems, and childhood developmental issues. To learn more on effects of plastics on humans visit the https://ecologycenter.org/plastics.
Other types of toxic plastics are BPA or health-bisphenol-A, along with phthalates (mentioned above). Both of these are of great concern to human health. BPA is used in many things including plastic bottles and food packaging materials. Over time the polymer chains of BPA break down, and can enter the human body in many ways from drinking contaminated water to eating a fish that is exposed to the broken down toxins. Specifically, BPA is a known chemical that interferes with human hormonal function.
Rolf Halden, associate professor in the School of Sustainable Engineering and Arizona State University has studied plastics adverse effects on humans and has thus far concluded that and exact outline of health effects of plastics on humans is almost impossible to determine. This is due to the fact that the problem of plastic contamination in humans is globally spread; there are almost no unexposed subjects. That being said, it is evident that the chemicals are not healthy for humans. To learn more about the impact on humans see Plastic Pollution Affects Human Health in Unseen Ways on page 14 and Impact of plastics, a note on Halden’s studies on plastic at Arizona State University on page 15.

Courtesy: serc.carlton.edu

The Three Plastic Islands

The Three Plastic Islands
The Great Pacific Garbage Patch, also know as the Pacific Trash Vortex or gyre, is located in the central North Pacific Ocean and is larger than the state of Texas. There are also garbage patches in the Indian and Atlantic ocean. The patches are defined as containing a higher amount of plastic as compared to surrounding oceans. To date, five patches in total have been discovered. Plastics are transported and converge in the ocean where currents meet. This means that huge plastic islands are made as a result. SES (Sea Education Society) scientists studied plastics in the Atlantic and calculated there are 580,000 pieces of plastic per square kilometer. Courtesy: serc.carlton.edu

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