Plastic Pollution in the Ocean and How it Affects Wildlife

Emma Bowman, Photo Editor

   The Vsco trend may have been on to something when they were trying to save the sea turtles. Recent studies have shown that sea life in the ocean is greatly in danger because of plastic pollution.

   Although “Save the Turtles” became a trend in summer of 2019, people lost the seriousness of the subject only after a few months. Our sea turtles are one of the most affected animals in the ocean by plastic pollution. Research has shown that more that half of the oceans sea turtles worldwide have ingested some kind of plastic.

    Sea turtles will eat garbage patches thinking they are food, and will starve because the plastic in their stomachs makes them feel full. The plastic has also been found to affect the reproduction of the turtles how. The sharp edges have been known to puncture internal organs, and if the turtle survives, the plastic make them unnaturally buoyant.

Emma Bowman – Pelican in Destin Florida

Like with the sea turtles, when seabirds ingest plastic it takes up room in stomachs and makes them feel full. Causing them to accidentally starve themselves. Right now researchers estimate that 60% of every seabird species have eaten plastic, and expect that number to rise to 99% by 2050.

   Two other species of marine life that are greatly affected by plastic ingestion are fish and marine mammals. Fish in the North Pacific ingest between 12,000 to 24,000 tons of plastic each year, which can cause major problems for the fish, along with the food chain. When a fish eats plastic eventually the plastic will get past along to bigger mammals and even humans.

   Marine mammals, such as whales and seals, can ingest and get tangled up in plastic bags and netting. Seals have been known to entangle themselves in plastic, causing serious injury or even death. As well as seals, whales have been found dead with bellies full of single use plastics.

   With places like The Great Pacific Garbage Patch it’s hard to think this is reversible, although it isn’t too late for our slippery friends. You can help control the amount of plastic being put into the ocean by recycling everything you can and stop using single use plastics, like plastic straws.