Plastics and Sea Pollution
No matter what way you look at it any plastic pollution directly affects sea life in every body of water on the planet. The extent of the damage it causes is not always known but suffice to say it can even enter the human food chain. The delicate balance of the ecosystems in the oceans is in severe danger from plastic pollution. Even the United Nations have said that in their estimation eight hundred species of animals are directly affected by litter dumped into the sea. And that thirteen million tons of plastic garbage ends up in our oceans each and every year.
The Animals at Risk
Nearly every animal that either lives or visits the oceans is in danger of being damaged by plastics. Marine mammals, sea turtles, fish, and seabirds can all get caught up in plastics or ingest the debris that causes internal damage. So unfortunately, death can occur by drowning, suffocation and even starvation. Most plastics take a very long time to decompose, but some of the newer eco-friendly plastics break down quickly, and the smaller shards of plastics which end up in the fish and seafood that humans eat.
The majestic sea turtle is one of the animals at most risk from discarded plastics, and experts estimate that over half the world’s population of these gorgeous sea creatures have ingested this harmful substance. The big risk for the turtles is that their stomachs feel full, so they do not eat properly and often starve. Young turtles are particularly at risk as they eat almost anything, and as they are not fully grown they tend to drift on the currents exactly the same as plastics do.
Of course, it is not just marine animals that are at risk, millions of seabirds are also killed every year by plastic pollution. Seabirds often suffer from the same malady that sea turtles do, in that they are fooled in thinking that they are full by eating plastic. And many birds are found dead due to starvation with their gullets full of plastic. Scientists currently believe that 60% of all the world’s seabirds have eaten plastic, and their projected forecast is that by 2050 this figure will rise to an incredible 99%.
Being highly intelligent creatures, Dolphins are not fooled into directly eating plastics. But they do eat other animals which have already ingested plastics thus getting contaminated. No animal or bird is safe from plastic pollution, from whales to tiny seahorses all are susceptible to its danger. No matter where the natural habitats are these creatures are being constantly under attack from discarded plastics from large oceans, to coral reefs and everything in between. Another issue with the amount of plastics being dumped into our marine ecosystem is that synthetic material encourages the growth of pathogens. And scientists have identified that any coral that comes into contact with plastic has a ninety percent chance of developing disease. A sobering thought to conclude our study is that scientists believe by 2050 that the weight of plastics in our oceans will exceed that of all marine life.