Plastic harming aquatic life



In this photo taken on Friday, June 15, 2012, a fisherman takes his boat onto a trash-ridden beach on Guanabara Bay near the international airport in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

Hanna Bishop

Many forms of marine life are affected by the growth of pollution in today’s oceans. Some predict that the amount of plastic pollution will triple within a decade further affecting marine life.

Plastic is known to take up to 100 years to decompose, but some plastics break down before others into tiny particles which can be unknowingly consumed by animals.

Once consumed, plastic never really breaks down in the abdomen, giving animals a sense of fullness though with none of the nutrients they need to survive.

This hurts marine life such as whales, dolphins, fish, and turtles by creating issues related to suffocation, starvation, reproduction, drowning and more.

Whales tend to be found dead with plastic in their stomachs.

Over 33 percent of sperm whales found dead off the coast of Greece had plastic in their system according to a recent study from the Pelagos Cetacean Research Institute.

Dolphins have a high intelligence and are unlikely to consume plastic, but they do eat other organisms that accidently consume plastic.

Half of the world’s turtle population has ingested plastic at least once.

Just 14 pieces of plastic can shorten a turtle’s life with a heightened risk of death according to the Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Turtle reproduction is also affected because of the pollution on beaches altering temperatures of the sand affecting incubation according to the Ocean Cleanup Foundation.

Though marine life is most affected by this pollution, humans are affected too. The pollution effects the economy, food, trade, and much more.

The ocean is worth a lot to the economy: an estimated $24 trillion according to an article published by the BBC in 2015.

If the oceans were a nation, they would the seventh largest global economy.

Worldwide oceans generate $7.8 trillion per year from a combination of tourism and beaches.

Oceans also collect income from trade and shipping with about $5.2 trillion per year and with fishing collecting $2.9 trillion per year according to the BBC.

The ocean produces all this money, but experts worry that if nothing is done soon, humanity will lose all these resources.

That is why some coastal states are trying to protect the world’s oceans; California, Oregon and Washington charge each of their 50 million residents $13 per year and spend more than $5.2 million a year to clean up litter and prevent marine debris according to the State of California Ocean Protection Council. In these state, 85 percent of the 50 million live on the ocean or along rivers.

Human pollution such as trash, sewage, agricultural runoff, radioactive waste, noise/light pollution, and more threatens the oceans which serve as a valuable resource.

Experts say the damage will only increase if humanity doesn’t make changes now.