The oceans cover over 72 percent of the planet’s surface, provide over 97 percent of the world’s water supply and over 70 percent of the oxygen we breathe. We have so much to thank the oceans for; however, they are threatened daily by natural and manmade pollution. Ocean pollution comes in many forms, but the largest factor affecting the oceans is plastic.
Research has indicated that at least 800 species worldwide are affected by marine debris, and as much as 80 percent of that litter is plastic. It is estimated that up to 13 million metric tons of plastic ends up in the ocean each year—the equivalent of a rubbish or garbage truck load’s worth every minute. Fish, seabirds, sea turtles, and marine mammals can become entangled in or ingest plastic debris, causing suffocation, starvation, and drowning.
Over the last decade, we have produced more plastic than we have in the last 100 years. This sharp increase in plastic entering our waters harms not only marine life but also humanity.
Plastic kills fish, birds, marine mammals and sea turtles, destroys habitats and even affects animals’ mating rituals, which can have devastating consequences and can wipe out entire species.
The most visible and disturbing impacts of marine plastics are the ingestion, suffocation and entanglement of hundreds of marine species. Marine wildlife such as seabirds, whales, fishes and turtles, mistake plastic waste for prey, and most die of starvation as their stomachs are filled with plastic debris. They also suffer from lacerations, infections, reduced ability to swim, and internal injuries. Floating plastics also contribute to the spread of invasive marine organisms and bacteria, which disrupt ecosystems.
We must all do our parts to make sure that we keep our oceans clean!