How Plastic Pollution Affects Marine Life

Pollution

The effects of plastic on aquatic ecosystem

Did you have any idea of how many marine animals die from plastic pollution every year?
A research was carried out to approximate the number of deaths regarding marine life, and the results were shocking!
It was found that almost 100 million marine creatures die due to plastic pollution every year around the globe. Can you imagine having around 100 million marine life dying from plastic pollution(Plastic Statistics). Plastic pollution is not only killing marine life, but it also affects us, humans, as many of us rely on marine life for a living. Plastic pollution affects marine life in so many ways and it is important that as humans, we have the responsibility to do something about plastic pollution and protecting marine life. Keep on reading to find out how plastic pollution affects marine life and what is something we need to take action about.

Facts about How Plastic Pollution Affects Marine Life

A beautiful beach is unfortunately filled with plastic pollution and waste
To get a better picture of why plastic pollution is a grave threat to marine life, let us share some distressing facts and figures with you.
A total of 100,000 marine creatures die because they get entangled in plastic elements each year(CondorFerries).

  • It is found that almost 14,000 tons of plastic are ingested by marine animals in the north pacific ocean every year.
  • Five hundred marine places are now regarded as dead zones globally.
  • It is estimated that more than 1000 sea turtles die from plastic waste accumulated in the oceans.
  • A single plastic bag can be very lethal for marine life. It is found that a single plastic bag can kill numerous marine animals. If one animal swallows it and then dies, the animal will decompose, and that plastic bag will again get released to capture another marine animal as a victim(Plastic Statistics).
  • Almost one million seabirds also become a victim of plastic pollution every year.

Above-stated facts and figures can shock a man to his very core. It is so saddening to see the destruction of marine life and what is sadder is that we are also the major contributors to this destruction.

Another fact states that at this very instant, almost 5.25 trillion pieces of plastic are present in the ocean(Plastic Statistics). How did this happen? How can we show so much negligence?
These are the questions we should be asking ourselves! Now let’s take a deeper look at how plastic pollution affects marine life.

Why Oceans Suffer From Plastic Pollution?

Have you noticed that we are being surrounded by plastic? Just have a keen look around, and you will find numerous things made up of plastic.
When plastic was first introduced, its demand skyrocketed within a few years. Neglecting the adverse effects of it, we continued to produce an immense amount of plastic every year. As things made up of plastic material are mostly single-use, they are discarded soon after their purpose is fulfilled. So, where should all this waste go?
The answer to this question is in the researched fact we will share with you next.

It is estimated that around 13 million metric tons of plastic waste end up in the oceans yearly(Plastic Pollution Affects Sea Life Throughout the Ocean).
Yes, most of this plastic waste goes into oceans, this plastic waste is what is often referred to as plastic pollution and because of that, we now see a large amount of marine life endangered by it.
A report recently published by the United Nations found that marine debris is negatively affecting 800 species of marine animals. The sad part is that 80 percent of this debris consists of plastic.
So, these are some reasons why oceans are suffering a big deal from plastic pollution.

What Dangers do Plastic Pollution Possess Towards Marine Life?

Poor Seal is injured as it is caught in plastic net caused by the excess plastic pollution in the ocean
Plastic pollution is, no doubt, the most dangerous thing for marine life. A large number of marine animals have fallen victim to it and are continuing to do so just as we speak.
So, if we talk about plastic’s dangers towards marine life, there are too many.
However, the major ways through which marine life fall victim to plastic pollution are as follows

  • By ingesting the plastic contaminants
  • By getting entangled in plastic elements

Why Do Marine Animals End up Eating Plastic?

Microplastic is a big part of plastic pollution that affects marine life
The dilemma is that most sea animals mistake plastic waste for food and end up eating it. This may be because of the color or shape of plastic waste that closely resembles potential prey’s color or shape.
Another possible reason is that some marine species use a technique known as echolocation to find their prey, confuse plastic waste as food, and end up eating it.
Moreover, we know that plankton is food for numerous marine species. Microplastics look similar to plankton, so those species consume microplastic regularly, confusing them with plankton.
Thus, there can be many reasons why marine animals consume plastic waste unknowingly and then often end up dead.

How Marine Animals Get Themselves Entangled in Plastic?

There is a large amount of ghost fishing gear made up of plastic present in the oceans. Hundreds of marine animals end up entangled in it, which results in internal injuries and infections.
This type of plastic pollution is the most deadly and consumes many marine animals’ lives. Once entangled in it, marine animals find it very difficult to swim around and often end up seriously injured.

Our Responsibility

Being a significant part of this ecosystem, it is our foremost duty to protect it from harmful agents that threaten our sustainable environment.
The biggest decision we can make today is that we must pledge to reduce the consumption of single-use plastic in our daily lives.
No one will do that for us, so we must take up responsibility ourselves and take essential steps to turn the tide. We are the ones that are causing the suffering of marine life with our plastic pollutions, so we should be able to fix it too. It is our responsibility to seek solutions to plastic pollution.

Some of the steps we can take are as follows

  • Reduce the use of plastic, especially single used plastic
  • Instead of throwing out, recycle all the plastic you can or reuse them
  • Use eco-friendly products, support brands that find alternatives to plastic
  • Participate in beach clean ups, or donate to organizations that does so

While this is a short list, but these steps can make a difference, the ultimate goal is to reduce the chance of plastic pollution ending up in the ocean and affecting marine life. By reducing plastic and dispose of or recycle them properly can significantly reduce such events. These are simple steps that we can all do.

Summary

It is time that we should make ourselves aware of the factors behind this gruesome killing and take steps to eradicate this issue from its very core so that a sustainable environment can flourish throughout the world.
We need to make sure that no more plastic goes into the oceans. It must be our top priority to reduce plastic consumption throughout the world.
We must strive to keep our beaches clean by disposing of plastic waste properly. Those living away from the sea must also remain aware as their used plastic can also end up dumped in the ocean.
Above all, we should remember that change starts at an individual level. We must change ourselves first. If we come out successful in doing that, our chances of changing the world will considerably increase. Plus, plastic pollution is also affecting us, humans!
Now that we know about how plastic pollution affects marine life, let’s take a look at some things that we can use to reduce our contribution to plastic pollution, such as plastic-free cleaning products or just plastic-free products in general.



Resources:
CondorFerries. “100+ Ocean Pollution Statistics Facts (2020).” Condor Ferries. Web. 19 Oct. 2020.
“Plastic Pollution Affects Sea Life Throughout the Ocean.” The Pew Charitable Trusts. Web. 19 Oct. 2020.
“Plastic Statistics.” Ocean Crusaders. 12 Nov. 2018. Web. 19 Oct. 2020.
               
Author: Monica Chang
On my own ethical journey since 2010. Always happy to learn more!