Plastic is one of the most common pollutants that end up in the ocean, but the properties that make it ideal for shopping make it deadly to marine life.
Plastics are durable and do not decompose easily, which means they can stay in the ocean for decades. And because they are so lightweight, plastics can float in the ocean where sea turtles and marine birds can get entangled or even ingest them by mistake. For example, plastic bags in the ocean closely resemble jellyfish, which are a common food for sea turtles.
Plastic can also have serious effects on marine mammals, including sperm whales which are some of the world’s smartest animals – possessing the largest brain of any known species.
Sperm whales typically feed on squid, sometimes diving more than a mile below the ocean’s surface to find food. But plastic trash is becoming more and more a part of the whales’ diets. Each year, sperm whales eat more than 100 million tons of seafood using suction, which makes them more vulnerable to ingesting plastic. And because sperm whales are at the top of the food chain, they are the most likely to be affected by pollution.
Stranded sperm whales are often found with their stomachs filled with plastic, which prevents them from eating the squid that they really need while also releasing toxins that can poison the animals. Sperm whales are already vulnerable because of historical whaling, so it is important to protect them and other marine life by taking steps to prevent plastics from entering the ocean.
To help make a difference, you can sign our Plastics Pledge in order to reduce plastic consumption.
- Ocean Roundup: Florida Receives Federal Help for Oyster Recovery, Climate Change Linked to Iceland’s Puffin Decline, and More Posted Thu, August 28, 2014
- Ocean Roundup: Methane Seeping from U.S. Atlantic Seafloor, Iceland’s Caught Scores of Endangered Fin Whales, and More Posted Mon, August 25, 2014
- Creature Feature: Barnacles Posted Tue, August 26, 2014
- Court Requests Changes to the North Pacific Fisheries Observer Program be Reconsidered Posted Thu, August 28, 2014
- Seaweed Spotlight: A Rare Glimpse into Beautiful Ocean Kelp Forests (Photos) Posted Mon, August 25, 2014